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Critter Killer Squad

After a few conversations back and forth on Twitter, it was decided that I should be the one to do a post about tips for farming the Critter Killer Squad achievement for your guild by killing 50,000 critters collectively. Completing this achievement gives your guild members access to the Armadillo Pup companion pet, though you do have one heck of a rep grind to do with your guild before you can actually purchase and summon him. The current PTR patch mentions he’s purchasable at Revered once the patch goes live, but currently it’s Exalted.

This isn’t really a guide to show you how to do it, it’s merely a list of tips to help you along the way. I’m going to point out the primary locations for where I did most of my grinding as well as things you can do to help you out in your own.

General Tips

Classy Killers
The first thing to consider if you’re going to go on a critter farming spree is your class. If you don’t have good AoE spells, or you’re not able to “spam” your AoE spells, then you aren’t really an ideal farmer. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it of course, only that you could do better if you were a different class. Which class is the best Critter farmer in the game? Mages followed by Priests.

Mages are the best critter farmers because they have a cheap AoE spell that you can spam (no cooldown) and several ways of getting their mana back quickly and easily. By taking the Arcane spec they can reduce the cooldown of their best mana return, Evocation, to every two minutes. By taking the Fire spec they gain access to two more AoE spells that can be cast instantly on a targeted location. And they can always conjure their own food for free if mana returns get stuck on cooldown.

Priests have a similarly useful AoE, but mana can become an issue after sustained periods without as many ways of generating it back.

You can also do a fair job with a Death Knight if you take the Frost Spec, allowing you to cast two Blood Boils, and two Howling Blasts to clear large numbers of critters. The drawback is that Howling Blast does require you to select a target which can be hard if you’re having to click on some of these tiny critters. You can get around that either with a macro or by trying to click on other, larger targets to center it on. You can also use your “ice cubes” cooldown when it’s up, allowing Frost Fever to kill them.

Critter Killer “SQUAD”
The next thing to consider is whether or not other people in your guild are willing to help you. Why is that important? Because just like loot in dungeons or raids, you get credit for the kills as long as you’re in the area when they die. Credit in the case of critters is the kill count. What that means is that if you’re in a group then everyone who is there and within “reward range” of the critters when they die all get credit for it.

So if you’re in a group with another person for your guild then every critter killed counts as two critters because both of you are rewarded with a kill. If you’re in a group of five, then every critter counts as five. And if you’re in a 40 man raid, then every critter counts as 40 instead.

Remember, guild achievements aren’t meant to be accomplished by a single individual, they’re meant to be a group effort; that’s why they’re guild achievements. Get a group together for the areas you want to farm in and then go do them together. You can either send a large group, like the 40 man raid, to a single location, or you can do smaller parties or raids to several locations at once.

Uldum
Uldum: the land of sheep, moths, lizards and scarabs.

This is where most of the people who got this achievement first did their thing. There are two locations on the map where two groups of sheep spawn which make it an excellent zone to grab a few, quick kills from. When the expansion was first released killing these sheep forced more sheep to instantly respawn, making it the single-best location in the game to farm the achievement. Once Blizzard caught on though, they took away the respawn rate and now they respawn about the same as any other critter, though maybe a tad slower.

Those little packs of sheep are still a great source of kills though, so I still enjoyed farming them even after the respawn nerf.

Anywhere that you find green growth in the zone can also be home to moths which count for the achievement as well. If you happen to be an herbalist or a skinner then you’ll likely be farming these areas for your professions as well, and killing critters while you’re in the middle of farming something else anyway is a great way to contribute to the guild without going out of your way. The sheep don’t quite have enough time to respawn after a single path along the highest spawn points of Whiptail unless you manage to find several of the nodes and stop for moths along the way, but a double-path should have the big sheep packs back up for you.

If you’re a miner then you’ll often find along your mining paths here that there will be several groups of critters that spawn in groups of three and then spread out and “flee” when you get close to them. Drop down in the middle and fire off an AoE spell to grab your three kills and then return to your ore farming. Many of the ore nodes themselves are spawn points for these critters which you can use to some extent as a reference for a place to keep your eyes open for a node you’re not aware of.

I start my mining path just south of where the sheep spawn, at a point where I often find Pyrite nodes and then I run a path that takes me through both sheep spawn locations, up around where the Armadillo rare spawn is located, up into the western mountain ranges looping around the north side of the map all the way to the east where I also find several Pyrite nodes, and then I go back to the sheep spot. My mining path is significantly larger than my herb path, and the sheep have always respawned by the time I get back around.

You can also make a macro to “/target Strange Camel Statue” to search for the statue that gives you a chance at a camel mount. I haven’t had any luck with that one myself yet, but I’ve been told that’s the best way to find it since the statue can be targeted.

Zul’Gurub
Zul’Gurub: The raid that once was, land of the eternal snakes.

In Zul’Gurub you’re going to be killing snakes. Lots, and lots, and lots of snakes. Now, there aren’t all that many snakes that are actually there, probably only 25-30 in this particular area, but killing them forces more to spawn and they also have a fast respawn rate on their own. The key to getting them to spawn a lot is to make sure that you kill all of them, and doing that requires you to know where all of them are.

Go to the area marked on the map. You’ll find the section where the snake boss used to be located when ZG was still a raid instance. Now, back out of his room onto the main pathway that runs around the instance. There are 4 snakes that spawn right outside there; 2 are in line with the doorway and there is one slightly to both the left and right of the door. The doorway itself also has up to 3 snakes that can spawn inside it.

Now your objective is clear a ring around the entire area inside the snake bosses “room”. So go in the door and start making a circle around the edge, spamming your AoE the whole time. I prefer to turn right and go around counter-clockwise, but that’s just me. When you come around opposite the doorway to where the stairs are go on up and do the same thing there, spamming your AoE as you circle around the upper floor. Then go back down the stairs and finish your ring of the lower level by following it around and going back out the door.

From there it’s just a simple matter of repeating everything you just did. If you don’t kill all of the snakes then not all of them will respawn, that’s why I have you kill the ones outside the door. You can’t kill just the lower floor and outside the door, or the snakes will follow normal respawn rules. If you do take the time to get snake down in there then you’ll have a constant supply of snakes to kill.

As you path around here you’ll pick up on where all of the snakes are and get a feel for where you need to stand when you fire your AoE to kill the most snakes per cast, and you’ll find just how close you need to get to the edges of the room. Once you’ve got a feel for it you’ll be able to clear the place in no time and can probably develop a rhythm like I did where I didn’t even have to look at the screen anymore because I knew how far to turn in each direction in sequence to get to where I was going.

ZG farming gets old pretty fast, but it is effective and it’s your best source if you don’t want to deal with respawn rates. If you’re grinding the achievement with your guild you probably don’t want to bring more than 2-3 other people with you to this place. While killing does force respawns, there’s still a little bit of an actual respawn on the forced spawn as well which ends up giving you a slight delay followed by bursts of snakes in random places and it gets a little screwy.

Eastern Plaguelands
Eastern Plaguelands: Enough creepy crawlies to feed the entire goblin race for a decade.

Eastern Plaguelands is overall the best place for you to farm. It has more critters than any other location in the game now, and they all have a reasonable respawn rate of 3-5 minutes. The respawn timer kind of sucks, but the cave is large enough and there are enough critters in there to make up for it.

EPL comes with another side benefit though which helps with that respawn timer, and that’s farming for the Mr. Grubbs companion pet. The whole point of killing these critters is to open up another pet, so don’t try to tell me you’re not in it for pets. ;)

If you don’t already have Mr. Grubbs then go ahead and clear out the cave full of critters and then fly east and farm some mobs for a chance to get Mr. Grubbs. After a few minutes of grinding those, head back to the cave and kill some more, then grind Grubbs while you wait, and so on and so forth.

If you’re going to grind this achievement with your guild then this is the best place to do it in groups.

Psynister’s Psystem
I did a large portion of my guild’s critter farming solo, mostly because I had no idea at the time that doing it in groups could multiply your kill count. If I had known that then we would have gotten it way sooner than we did.

I started off farming the sheep in Uldum, pre-nerf, and not expecting a nerf to come for a while I mostly took my time with them and only did a few thousand at a time before going off to do something else. I don’t remember what our count was when the nerf hit, but I think it was around 10-12k at that point.

The nerf wasn’t a big setback though because I had found a location that was even better. I was leveling a Worgen Fury Warrior to become PvP twink when I suddenly found myself in a tunnel/hallway absolutely full of critters. I remembered it from the Beta but I had completely forgotten that the area existed. The great thing about this place was that the critters actually attacked you which mean that my Warrior had a never ending supply of Rage along with a never ending supply of critters, and a wonderful spell to dump that Rage into that just happened to be an AoE.

I farmed the crap out of that hall until all of my non-BoA gear was broken. Once it broke I set off to find myself a repair vendor so I could make use of my enchanted Hand-Me-Downs again, but none of them existed in the phase I was in. Sadly, neither did a mailbox so I couldn’t send the BoA’s to a new Warrior. The grinding was still great, but slower after all of my gear was busted so I took a break there for a while as well. The following week this place was nerfed as well so that the critters don’t count. Still, I’d managed over 20,000 kills there.

That left me with only a few options so I searched for other good places to go and stumbled onto the snakes in ZG. The good thing about them is that they do have an excellent respawn rate. The bad thing is, farming them kind of sucks with how spread out they are so you don’t get as many kills in as short of a time. And because of the layout I actually got bored with it easier than I did the others. I only did maybe 500-1,000 there before I got bored and left.

I then went to try my luck in EPL which is where I decided to spend most of my remaining time farming it. The respawn rate isn’t great, but the number of critters inside was fantastic. The respawn timer did make it boring pretty easily though, so again I only ended up with a little over 1,000 kills here at the time.

From there I left the achievement alone for a while at around 36,000 critters. From there I left it up to the rest of the guild for a while and we made decent progress from there. When I saw that we were within 5,000 of the achievement I went back to farming a bit more seriously and decided to beat the respawn timers by setting up a different toon in each of my three best farming locations and just relog each time I finished off an area. That worked for all of two cycles before I was killing them all too fast to really make it efficient. The DK in Uldum was doing good slaying sheep with Blood Boil and Howling Blast, but the Balance Druid kind of sucked in ZG with how much they were spread out and how much mana my non-cooldown AoE spells required to cast. The Mage was still slaying like crazy in EPL though, and eventually I just gave up on the rotation and stuck with Mage/EPL.

Quite a few members jumped in there at the end trying to finish off the achievement. At the very end, I saw two other people farming critters and only one of which was in a good spot (Uldum) for getting big numbers in a short amount of time. I’d worked so hard on the achievement though that I wasn’t about to let someone else finish what I’d started so I jumped back on the Mage for one final push through that EPL tunnel. I went in with 200 critters left on the countdown and started in.

I saw the numbers drop quickly, and just as we hit 13 I saw someone else in my tunnel doing the same thing. If he had been flagged, and on the opposite faction, I’d have killed him with AoE spells a’blazing, but that was not the case. Luckily I’d been through that stinking cave so many times that I knew all of the twists and turns and I knew there was a side passage to his right…and apparently so did he.

But, he wasn’t a mage.

/cast Blink
/cast Arcane Explosion (critter count: 3)
/cast Arcane Explosion (critter count: -7)

Now all I have to do is stop being such a friggin altoholic and focus on a single character long enough to get my rep high enough to buy the Armadillo. I’m not real big on companion pets, but still – I am a Texan, after all.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2011 in Death Knight, Mage, Priest, World of Warcraft

 

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Mage Leveling: 1-29 Fire

Alright, I admit it. I’ve been slacking on the leveling guides.

But today that all gets to change, because I’ve been asked so many times for new Mage leveling guides that I have no choice but to do as the readers command.

I’ve done a lot of Mage leveling in Cataclysm so far, trying out different specs across various level ranges. I’ve leveled my own Mages and I’ve leveled alongside Mages as well. I haven’t been so focused on Mages that I know the ins and outs of leveling as every spec, but I have done enough to know the two of them quite well. Arcane just doesn’t feel right to me while I’m leveling. It works, don’t get me wrong, but it just…I don’t know, but I don’t like it so I’m sticking with Frost and Fire.

So today we start the journey down the leveling road of one of the two classes that are constantly locked in a never ending battle for the rank of Psynister’s Favorite Class, and this time we’re going to look at what is quickly becoming my favorite Mage spec, Fire.

Playing a Fire Mage
Each of the three Mage specs has its own way of doing things. Arcane is about mobility and speed, Frost is about control and security, and Fire is about melting your opponent’s face before any of the rest of that matters. Fire hits hard and though it doesn’t hit as fast as the other two specs, it definitely larger numbers (individually) than the other two.

And in case your spec perk of Fire Specialization doesn’t spell it out clearly enough for you (+25% damage to Fire spells), you’re going to be casting a lot of Fire spells.

Playing a Fire Mage is all about knowing your spells and taking advantage of opportunities. Fire has the longest cast times of all three specs, but their return for that is higher damage. In order to minimize the issue of long cast times you need to become familiar with how, when, and where to cast your spells.

Some people find that playing a Fire Mage is boring because of all of the extra cast time, but Blizzard has done a great job of easing us into those longer cast times while also providing additional utility spells while we level that it’s easy to just build up a feel for it over time to the point that you just get used to it. Don’t discount the brutality of the Fire spec simply for it’s supposed slowness until you’ve given it enough time to make an honest impression.



General Mage Tactics
Mages are known for two things: Being hard to kill, and being incredibly squishy. That’s right, we’re hard to kill because we’re so easy to kill. Why are we easy to kill? Because we wear t-shirts instead of plate armor. Why are we hard to kill? Because we’re often able to kill you before you can do anything to make our t-shirts matter.

As a spellcaster your primary source of defense is to stay away from things that want to hurt you. That doesn’t mean avoiding combat, it means avoiding damage. You’re a ranged class, so don’t get into melee combat when you don’t have to. That doesn’t mean you have to run away from everything, but it does mean you don’t want to run up and hit things with your staff or stab them with a dagger when you could instead cast several spells at them before they can cause you any harm.

Mages have more crowd control options than any other class, in general. Warlocks can beat us when it comes to using CC on certain types of mobs because they have spells that work on things that we don’t, but generally speaking we’re the kings of CC. We can freeze, stun, slow, and polymorph our targets and in some cases we can do those to multiple enemies at once.

Mages also have a number of defensive spells that can either prevent damage or remove harmful effects. If you’re stunned or “rooted” (you can’t move because of a spell/effect) you can cast Blink and it will remove those effects from you. If you are poisoned or diseased you can cast Ice Block to remove all of those effects as well. And if you’re about to die you can always just jump off of a cliff…just make sure you cast Slow Fall before you hit the ground.

Fire-Specific Tips
As I’ve said, cast times are often the thing that drives people away from playing Fire. So what are some ways you can get around that?

  1. Pull with Pyroblast.
  2. Use the terrain to your advantage.
  3. Use the extra time to cast additional spells.
  4. Take advantage of Crowd Control.
  5. Relax, there’s no need to hurry.

Pyroblast: A lot of people seem to think that since this is the “signature” spell of the Fire tree that you’re supposed to be using it all the time, but that’s not true. Pyroblast can get up to a 5 second cast time, which in the middle of combat when you’re already getting pounded on by a mob is most definitely not a good idea. Until you reach level 29 you should only cast Pyroblast when pulling mobs or when breaking crowd control.

Terrain: As a caster you have the huge advantage of being able to use terrain to your benefit where melee classes cannot. If you’re fighting mobs that fight back with melee rather than ranged attacks or spells of their own, then make use the terrain. You can cast your spells through trees, or from the top of a hill or a wall. The time that it takes your target to reach you is time that you have to freely cast your spells. Casting from the opposite side of a tree makes the mob run around the tree to get to you, effectively making the distance between you longer. Doing the same from the opposite side of a fallen log has the same effect, for example.

Time: While your spells do have longer cast times, they also have “travel time”, which is the time it takes between when it’s cast and when it actually hits the target. By following a Pyroblast with a Fireball you effectively remove the majority of the cast time of your Fireball because it takes place outside of combat until the Pyroblast hits.

Crowd Control: There are three types of CC to bring up here: Slow, Freeze, and Polymorph. Slow refers to any Chill effects you have that slow the target down, primarily Frostbolt. By following your Pyroblast pull with a Frostbolt instead of a Fireball you can slow the target’s movement to allow additional time for casting spells before they reach you. Freeze is similar, though it prevents movement from the target all together. Your only source of Freeze for many, many levels is Frost Nova. Once you’ve drawn a mob and he’s closed into melee range you can Frost Nova, move away and then utilize the time for either a Pyroblast or Fireball in safety. Polymorph is just that, and typically used when you’ve pulled multiple mobs. If you’ve taken the time to sheep a mob then the best way to break that CC to get back into combat is to move out to max range and then make use of your long-cast time spells such as Pyroblast.

Relax: Like I said before, Fire is all about packing big enough punches that you don’t need a lot of movement or crazy control and survival skills. If a mob is hitting you, but you’re not in immediate threat of dying, then who cares? Cast another spell, kill them, loot them, and move on to the next mob. You’re not in a hurry as Fire, you’re there to nuke the crap out of things and then go collect all of your loot once the smoke clears.

Important Spells & Abilities
Mages have such an amazingly useful spellbook that it’s really hard to narrow it down to which spells are important and which ones aren’t. Some of them aren’t useful in every fight, but under the right circumstances they’re your go-to spell of choice for the situation. But, I’m going to do my best to remove all of the “but what if…” questions and stick strictly to usefulness for leveling in general circumstances.

All numbers are taken from the level 29 version (where applicable) of the spell. The number following the spell name is the level at which it becomes available.

Damage Spells
Fireball (1): Hurls a fiery ball that causes 63 to 79 Fire damage.
Arcane Missiles (3): Launches a 3-5 waves of Arcane Missiles at the enemy over 2 sec, causing Arcane damage per wave. Each offensive spell you cast has a 40% chance to activate Arcane Missiles.
Fire Blast (4): Blasts the enemy for 67 to 79 Fire damage.
Pyroblast (10): Hurls an immense fiery boulder that causes 91 to 115 Fire damage and an additional 60 Fire damage over 12 sec.
Scorch (26): Scorch the enemy for 47 to 55 Fire damage.

Fireball is your primary nuke spell, the one you’ll spam more than any other as Fire. Arcane Missiles I only list because up to level 29 it will be your main proc spell, allowing you to get mana-free damage; after level 29 you’ll never cast this again. Fire Blast is one of your most useful spells, dealing better damage on average than Fireball and as an instant cast as well; the only drawback being its cooldown. Fire Blast is one of the few spells that provides great utility no matter what spec you choose.

Pyroblast is your signature spell, and the one you’ll use to pull all of your enemies while soloing. Once you hit level 29 this also becomes your mana-free proc as the Hot Streak talent puts it in place of Arcane Missiles. Scorch provides a reasonable, though weaker, alternative to Fireball as your spammable spell if you want to try to force Pyroblast procs more frequently.

Utility
Frost Nova (8): Blasts enemies near the caster for 26 to 30 Frost damage and freezes them in place for up to 8 sec. Damage caused may interrupt the effect.
Evocation (12): Gain 15% of your mana instantly and another 45% of your total mana over 6 sec.
Polymorph (14): Transforms the enemy into a sheep, forcing it to wander around for up to 50 sec. While wandering, the sheep cannot attack or cast spells but will regenerate very quickly. Any damage will transform the target back into its normal form. Only one target can be polymorphed at a time. Only works on Beasts, Humanoids and Critters.
Blink (16): Teleports the caster 20 yards forward, unless something is in the way. Also frees the caster from stuns and bonds.

Frost Nova gets a special mention even though it’s not a Fire spell because it’s such an excellent tool for both offense and defense, often both at the same time. If a mob manages to get into melee range use Frost Nova to keep them in place, move away, and then use the time that they’re frozen to cast another Pyroblast. Evocation is your source of massive mana return, and once glyphed it also restores a good amount of your health as well.

Polymorph is your primary crowd control (CC) spell, effectively removing the target from combat. If you pull more than one mob, use this on one of them to even the odds and then smack them upside the head with a Pyroblast once the first target is killed. Blink is another one of our signature abilities, a spell that no one else can duplicate save Subtlety Rogues to a much lesser extent. It allows you to teleport 20 yards away in the direction you’re facing and breaks any stuns or roots that have been cast on you.

Leveling a Mage
Questing Rotation: Pyroblast [Pull], Fireball, Fire Blast, Fireball x3, Fire Blast (Procs when available)
Optional Rotation: Pyroblast [Pull], Fireball, Fire Blast, Scorch x5, Fire Blast (Procs when available)
Dungeon Rotation: Pyroblast [Pull], Fireball, Fire Blast, Fireball x3, Fire Blast (Procs when available)

At this level range there’s not a whole lot of options when it comes to rotation. Basically you’re going to do what I already covered up in the Fire-specific tips section by utilizing pre-pull time for your biggest spell casts and then follow it up with your make spammable spell.

The “Procs when available” comment means to cast the spell associated with your proc when it comes up. Until level 29 you’re main proc is going to be Arcane Missiles which you learn the mechanics of at level 3. At 29 though you put a talent point into Hot Streak which chances the AM Proc into a Hot Streak proc, allowing you to cast an instant Pyroblast that costs no mana. Whenever you get one of these procs, stop the Fireball/Scorch spam and instead cast the spell related to the proc. You also have another proc from your talent tree which is Impact. Impact resets the cooldown on your Fire Blast spell and if you cast Fire Blast on a target it will stun them for 2 seconds and also spread any of your Fire DoT effects on the target to all other enemies within 12 yards of them. Right now the only DoT you have is Pyroblast, so that portion’s not especially important, but the rest of Fire Blast (instant nuke) and the added stun effect are really good.

The two different variations you see up there are Fireball spam and Scorch spam. Fireball hits hard, but it has a long cast time. Scorch is weak compared to Fireball, but it’s got a faster cast time. The appeal of the Scorch spam is that you can try to cast more spells in a shorter period of time to have more chances to land a Hot Streak proc for those mana-free, instant Pyroblasts. I personally prefer Fireball spam over Scorch, but my wife found that Scorch fits her playstyle much better, so try them both and go with the one you feel more comfortable with.

Talent Points

Solo Spec Group/LFG Spec



I’ve gone ahead and listed two different specs up there for you to choose from. The first is focused on solo play, where you spend more points in Burning Soul to reduce pushback and the other puts points into Master of Elements instead for mana conservation. Both of these talents are great, but while MoE can benefit any Mage, Burning Soul does you no good if you never get hit.

Solo Spec
Improved Fire Blast 2/2: Increases the critical strike chance of your Fire Blast spell by 8% and increases its range by 10 yards.
Burning Soul 3/3: Reduces the casting time lost from taking damaging attacks by 70%.
Impact 2/2: Gives your damaging spells a 10% chance to reset the cooldown on Fire Blast and to cause the next Fire Blast you cast to stun the target for 2 sec and spread any Fire damage over time effects to nearby enemy targets within 12 yards.
Ignite 3/3: Your critical strikes from Fire damage spells cause the target to burn for an additional 40% of your spell’s damage over 4 sec.
Hot Streak 1/1: Your spells no longer trigger Arcane Missiles. Instead, your critical strikes with Fireball, Frostfire Bolt, Scorch, Pyroblast, or Fire Blast have a chance to cause your next Pyroblast spell cast within 15 sec to be instant cast and cost no mana.

The Solo spec is all about dealing extra damage whenever possible, and and getting additional functionality out of our spells early on. Improved Fire Blast helps us most with its additional crit chance which increases our chance to proc Hot Streak for free, instant Pyroblasts. Burning Soul comes next because it really helps with Fire’s long cast times. When a mob does close in to melee range and you don’t have any spells available to get distance again you’re going to have to cast while being attacked, and this does a great job of reducing the penalty you get from casting while being attacked.

Impact serves a dual purpose, though primarily we’re taking it for the stun effect and the additional damage from having Fire Blast’s cooldown reset. It also spreads DoT damage to all other targets within 12 yards which is nice though it won’t do a whole lot for us at this stage of the game. Ignite is an excellent ability that gives us extra damage by causing all of our crits to deal additional DoT damage which really stacks up fast with a Fire spec, especially at higher levels.

Finally, we add Hot Streak to the list, replacing the Arcane Missiles proc with a Hot Streak proc that allows us to cast Pyroblast instantly and without a mana cost. Hot Streak procs are the reason people play Fire, don’t let them tell you otherwise. Being able to deal that much damage as an instant cast spell is insane and you’ll cackle with glee every time you do it.

Group/LFG Spec
Improved Fire Blast 2/2: Increases the critical strike chance of your Fire Blast spell by 8% and increases its range by 10 yards.
Master of Elements 2/2: Your spell criticals will refund 30% of their base mana cost.
Burning Soul 1/3: Reduces the casting time lost from taking damaging attacks by 23%.
Ignite 3/3: Your critical strikes from Fire damage spells cause the target to burn for an additional 40% of your spell’s damage over 4 sec.
Impact 2/2: Gives your damaging spells a 10% chance to reset the cooldown on Fire Blast and to cause the next Fire Blast you cast to stun the target for 2 sec and spread any Fire damage over time effects to nearby enemy targets within 12 yards.
Hot Streak 1/1: Your spells no longer trigger Arcane Missiles. Instead, your critical strikes with Fireball, Frostfire Bolt, Scorch, Pyroblast, or Fire Blast have a chance to cause your next Pyroblast spell cast within 15 sec to be instant cast and cost no mana.

The Group/LFG spec is almost exactly the same as the solo spec except for two things. First, we take 2 points in Master of Elements to make our mana last longer by getting 30% mana refunds when we crit, and taking only 1 point in Burning Soul to pay for it since we shouldn’t get hit as often when in groups (hopefully you have a tank). The other is that I suggest you take Ignite prior to Impact because it will give you more damage potential in groups if you crit something and let Ignite burn it down while you begin attacking another target and begin to work on getting Ignite DoT’s on multiple mobs at once.

Glyphs for Leveling
You don’t get glyphs now until level 25, but at least you do get to use them a little bit in this level range.

Prime Glyphs
Glyph of Fireball: Increases the critical strike chance of your Fireball spell by 5%.
Glyph of Pyroblast: Increases the critical strike chance of your Pyroblast spell by 5%.

These are about as basic as it gets for prime glyphs, and they both do the same thing but for different spells. If you’re going to be a Fireball spammer then you’re better off with Fireball for now, but if you’re going to be a Scorch spammer then Pyroblast is the way to go.

The good thing about adding crit chance to Fireball is that it gives you more chances to proc Hot Streak for instant Pyroblasts, but the good thing about adding crit chance to Pyroblast is that you’ll often end up one-shotting mobs from Pyro casts alone which gives you the powerful feel that Fire is supposed to have. If you’re not getting a lot of Hot Streak procs though, the Pyro glyph will only help on the initial cast when you pull the mobs, so you’ll get more use overall out of Fire.

Major Glyphs
Glyph of Evocation: Also grants you 40% of your total health over the channeled time of your Evocation spell.
Glyph of Blast Wave: Increases the damage of your Scorch spell by 20%. [Req Lv 29]

Evocation is one of the most amazing glyphs that Mages have access to. If you can only afford a single glyph, make it Evocation because the ability to heal yourself on the fly like that for 40% of your total health is amazing. Blast Wave is a decent option as well, though you can’t use it until you learn the spell by taking the talent, which you won’t actually do until level 31. If you’re not worried about your health though, it’s a decent option once you have access to the spell.

Minor Glyphs
Glyph of the Monkey: Your Polymorph: Sheep spell polymorphs the target into a monkey instead.
Glyph of the Penguin: Your Polymorph: Sheep spell polymorphs the target into a penguin instead.

These are your only two options within the level range, and sadly they both essentially do nothing at all. They change the physical appearance of what you change targets into when you polymorph them, and that’s it. Of the two, I definitely prefer Monkey, so that’s my suggestion….or just wait until level 32 and use the Glyph of Slow Fall instead.

Macro Suggestions
I actually don’t have any especially good macro suggestions for Fire at this level of play. Everything’s basically as straight forward as you can get. The only thing that even comes to mind here is the generic attack macro I use for all of my attack spells:

#showtooltip
/startattack
/cast Fireball

Gearing Up for Spellcasting
Intellect > Crit > Haste > Hit > everything else

You’re a caster, so Int is your top priority. Crit is number two because your DPS thrives when you manage to crit due to Hot Streak procs and Ignite DoT’s. Haste is good for helping you with those cast times, and it will improve your DoT’s later on when you actually have some. Hit really doesn’t matter while you’re leveling; it’s not a bad stat, it just isn’t all that great either. If you stumble onto some great gear that just so happens to have Hit on it, then grats on your bonus stat, but don’t turn down upgrades to the other stats in favor of Hit at this level.

The Tailoring profession is a great source of gear throughout the various levels, especially if you plan on soloing your way to the top. You can generally find better gear in instances than you can from tailoring when you are starting out, but you can certainly weave that cloth to fill in any gaps you might have. Don’t discount quest rewards though, because Cataclysm brought a whole new set of quest rewards and some of them are fantastic for their level.

Whether you use a staff or you go with a one handed weapon and an off hand item is mostly up to you. Use whatever will give you better stats overall and go with it. Typically the low level staffs will be better than other options, but just use whatever you have on hand that provides the most benefit.

When it comes to Wands, it’s all about the stats. I haven’t used my wand for anything other than killing critters when I’m bored in a very long time. Look for Intellect and Crit above all others for your wand and ignore the damage it can do all together.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2011 in Caster, Class, Guide, Leveling, Mage

 

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Hand Me Downs: Mages

I realize that my Hand Me Downs: A Poor Man’s Heirlooms post was a huge wall of text, so I’ve decided to do a breakdown of it so that it’s more useful to those who want try it out.

To do this, I’m going to do a breakdown of each class and show you which Hand Me Downs (HMD’s) I suggest using for the given class and spec. I was going to combine the Mages and Warlocks into a single post, but I considered that even though they’re both pure DPS classes and both wear the same gear (cloth), they don’t necessarily want the same enchants in every slot. So I’ve split them back up and we’ll move forward from here with the Mage post.

Most of this information is copied and pasted from the original post, but I’ve put in specifics related to the Mage class and hopefully given a bit more detail and direction for why I chose what I did.

General Concept
The basic idea of what I call “hand-me-downs” (or HMD’s) is that you’re taking items that can be passed from one toon to the next (so Common, White-quality items) and enhancing them them to make them better. Enhancements that we’re going to talk about here come mostly from the Enchanting profession, though a few may also be found in Blacksmithing (counterweights, sheild spikes, etc), Leatherworking (armor kits), and Engineering (scopes).

The whole point here is to get low level gear that you can pass around to any alts that you ever roll to make them more powerful starting out. As Cynwise and I have proved through experiment in both PvE and PvP at low levels, it isn’t heirlooms that make your character so overpowered, it’s actually the enchants.

So if you’re trying to decide on which class to roll, or want to go take one for a test drive for 10 levels or so before deciding whether or not to keep them, this is a great way to get a feel for how the class is going to play for you without putting in a time investment that’s going to be wasted. Since these items can be passed around due to their lack of binding, it’s not a big deal to roll a character, gain a few levels, scrap them and reroll another, and so on until you find a nice fit.

Obtaining Your HMD Caster Weapons
Arcane Forged Shortsword: 3-6 Damage (1.7 DPS), 2.6 Speed
Mana Gathering Staff: 5-9 Damage (2.1 DPS), 3.20 Speed
Apprentice’s Staff: 3-5 Damage (1.3 DPS), 2.90 Speed
Arcane Forged Dirk: 1-4 Damage (1.7 DPS), 1.60 Speed

The first thing you need to decide when picking your caster weapon(s) is whether you want it to be one-handed or two-handed. The benefit of using a one-hand is that you can also equip off-hand items as you level, such as the books offered from the Inscription profession. The only real “benefit” of using a two-handed item as a HMD instead is that it can often look “cooler”. I like my casters to have a staff even though I know I can usually get better stats overall from a one-hand plus off-hand combo.

The benefit of a staff really is that the staff weapons almost always look cooler than the swords or daggers that you would use for a Mage HMD. You lose out on being able to use an off-hand item, and you get nothing in return save for the weapon’s looks. You also need to consider the fact that these enchants usually have a glow effect on them which will make a Dagger look like a lightbulb in your hand (not really, but pretty close). A sword can have a really cool effect with the right enchant, and a staff will have the primary end glow when enchanted. All in all I just tend to lean towards a staff, though a sword tends to look the best when enchanted.

The first option up there, Arcane Forged Shortsword, is the one that I recommend using for your Mage because it looks cool and because it’s one-handed. Since you’re a caster, it doesn’t make a bit of difference which one you choose as far as damage and speed are concerned, because it’s really just a source of stats for you via the enchant you place on it. I have four different staff weapons in my HMD collection, but I still prefer using the sword or dagger for the ability to make use of my off-hand. Despite my preference for a staff’s look, I’m a min/maxer at heart so I’m suggesting the sword.

Weapon Enchants
Enchant Weapon – Mighty Intellect: +22 Intellect
Enchant Weapon – Spell Power: +30 Spell Power
Enchant Weapon – Healing Power: +29 Spell Power
Enchant 2H Weapon – Major Intellect: +9 Intellect

In 3.5 the +30 SP was the go-to enchant for casters, but with the change to spell power Mighty Intellect has taken the lead. It’s also the cheapest of the three options which makes it that much more appealing. You don’t get quite as much spell power out of the deal, but you’re trading 7-8 SP for 330 mana which is more than worth it for low level casters in my opinion.

If you can’t afford (or find) those top three, then +9 Intellect should be both easy to find and cheap. It’s not nearly as good as the others, but it’s definitely better than nothing and 9 Spell Power and 135 Mana is still of great use to a low level toon.

Obtaining Your HMD Armor
Chest: Haliscan Jacket: 90 Armor
Festival Dress: 13 Armor
Simple Black Dress: 0 Armor
Bracer: Light Cloth Bracers: 9 Armor
Gloves: Light Cloth Gloves: 13 Armor
Feet: Dress Shoes: 9 Armor
Back: Linen Cloak: 12 Armor
*Waist: Light Cloth Belt: 12 Armor
*Legs: Haliscan Pantaloons: 77 Armor
Black Tuxedo Pants: 54 Armor

This is an example of a full gear set that I would suggest for your HMD’s. This particular set can be purchased form the Cloth Armor vendor in the Blood Elf starting zone, but there is a similar armor set that you can purchase in every starting zone that have the same stats.

There are a few armor pieces here that aren’t vendor purchases though, and those are the Chest and Legs. There I have the pieces that are actually above and beyond the norm, and they are all crafted by Tailors. The Haliscan Jacket and Simple Black Dress are both able to be equipped at level 1, but they both have item levels over 35 which means they can be enchanted with recipes from the Burning Crusade expansion where other items cannot. If you can afford one of them, then I suggest you do it. The Haliscan is a shirt rather than a robe, so if you like to look more like a caster then you may prefer to the Dress instead, despite the 90 Armor difference.

The Festival Dress is just a cool looking robe for you to wear at low levels, and since part of using HMD’s is looking cool I’m going to leave it up there. The Simple Black Dress might have a higher item level and be able to get better enchants on it, but it doesn’t look nearly as cool as the Festival Dress.

I marked the Legs and Waist items because neither of those slots can actually be enchanted with anything worthwhile for a low level toon (16 armor from an armor kit is blah). You can get some more armor out of them, but that’s it. I don’t consider it worth my time or my bank space to hold onto those items since they offer so little benefit. If you want a complete “set” of the armor, then go ahead and buy them, but otherwise ignore those two slots.

Chest Enchants
Enchant Chest – Exceptional Stats: +6 All Stats [ilvl 35+]
Enchant Chest – Greater Stats: +4 All Stats
Enchant Chest – Major Mana: +100 Mana
Enchant Chest – Stats: +3 All Stats

The enchants I have listed here are ranked by their power and usefulness as I see them. The best choice here is +6 Stats which gives you 90 Mana and 6 Spell Power, though it too can only be placed on the Haliscan Jacket or Simple Black Dress (from the list I gave you). The +4 Stats enchant gives you 4 Spell Power and also 60 mana, so I consider it better than just +100 Mana. The difference is only 40 mana which is typically only enough to cast one or two spells. The +3 Stats falls below the +100 Mana enchant for me for the very same reason, in that it’s only giving you 45 Mana, so the +3 Spell Power isn’t all that great.

We have the same situation with the Stats enchants here as we do above with the Melee enchants and for the same reasons. Again, I list the +100 Mana last here, but only because I consider it less valuable than the others. For casters, mana = damage so having more mana does essentially make you more powerful; just not directly. Despite it being last on my list, I tend to use it above all of the others for my personal HMD’s, because I like to have a ton of mana to work with and don’t mind sacrificing a few points of spell power for 100 extra mana.

Bracer Enchants
Enchant Bracer – Healing Power: +15 Spell Power
Enchant Bracer – Greater Intellect: +7 Intellect

I personally choose +15 SP for my bracer enchants, but the +7 Intellect enchant is a lot better than it used to be now that Int=SP. You can either have 15 Sp or you can have 7 SP and 105 Mana to go with it. It’s up to you really, I just like to have that extra level of power from the 15 SP for my personal taste. I don’t often run into mana issues on my Mages, but it’s also the class I’m most familiar with leveling and playing, so I know how to work with what I’ve got.

There are some other bracer enchants you might want to take a look at if you don’t like these or can’t find/afford them, but they shouldn’t be all that hard to come by.

Glove Enchants
Enchant Gloves – Healing Power: +16 Spell Power
Enchant Gloves – Fire Power: +20 Fire Spell Power
Enchant Gloves – Frost Power: +20 Frost Spell Power
Enchant Gloves – Minor Haste: +10 Haste

Casters have a lot of really good options here. The generic enchant of choice is Healing Power for +16 SP to all of your spells, but if you know your’e going to spec for a specific damage type then you can go ahead and grab it instead. If you’re going for a Fire spec, then get Fire Power, and if you’re going Frost spec then get Frost power.

If you’re not sure of your spec, then go with Healing Power. Also remember that the purpose of HMD’s is to pass them around on other toons, so they need to be reusable. For that reason, I personally go with +16 Spell Power rather than +20 to a specific type. Frost Mages are the only ones that will make decent use of Frost Power, while Fire Mages and Destro Locks can both use Fire Power.

The drawback of those top three enchants is that they’re all harder to come by than mots of the other enchants you’ll use for HMD’s because they’re found in old raids. The mats can be a bit pricey on some servers, but they aren’t as bad as some of the others.

The Minor Haste enchant is a very good choice and one I frequently use. I don’t prefer it for Mages (now that spell ranks are gone /sniffle), but it’s still a good option for them as well. For low level casting that 10 Haste equates to about 0.10 seconds off of your cast times.

Boot Enchants
Enchant Boots – Minor Speed: +7% Run Speed
Enchant Boots – Lesser Accuracy: +5 Hit

Casters get the shaft on boot enchants, with nothing really standing out. I lean towards the speed increase for my personal use, but you might prefer the +5 Hit. Run Speed will help you quest and level faster, while Accuracy will help you kill faster, so the choice is yours.

Caster Cloak Enchants
Enchant Cloak – Subtlety: -2% Threat
Enchant Cloak – Superior Defense: +70 Armor

The cloak enchants are even worst than the boot enchants, I’m afraid. If you’re going to do a lot of dungeon running then I definitely suggest you pick up a cloak with Subtlety on it for the threat reduction, because Mages are real good at laying down some good DPS, and reducing the chance of pulling those mobs to eat your face is a good thing.

If you’re not going to use LFG very much, then either go with the +70 Armor, or skip using an HMD cloak all together. We don’t get much benefit out of them when not running dungeons, so they’re not that important.

 
16 Comments

Posted by on November 19, 2010 in Caster, Class, Guide, Hand Me Downs, Leveling, Mage, Play Styles

 

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Leveling Overview: Cataclysm 1-10

Beta Build: 4.0.1.12942
Spoiler Types:
– New features
– Low level class abilities or traits
– General impression of starting areas (no specific lore)

With my beta key firmly in hand, and the client downloaded and installed (after 38 hours), a lot of my leveling now is done in the beta rather than the live, and it’s most likely going to stay that way. I don’t want to leave the blog hanging or go off in another direction with it, so I’m going to keep right on blogging about leveling, just with a Cataclysm touch in mind instead.

I’m going to stay away from spoilers as far as the game itself goes, but I am going to talk about new abilities, where you get them, how you get them, and so on and so forth. There will be some small spoilers in relation to those topics, so if you don’t even want to know what abilities are changing and such, then you’ll probably want to ignore me for a couple more months until it comes out live. I’ve said it since Cataclysm was revealed to us in BlizzCon 2009, that it will launch in November and I still believe that that is true.

Each post that I make in relation to Cataclysm prior to its actual launch will have a disclaimer at the top noting which type of spoilers (if any) you’ll find in the post, along with the beta build number associated with the information in the post.

For this post I’m going to talk about leveling for all of the races and classes up to level 10, just to give you an idea of how they’re going to feel coming right out of the box.
Turn the page to find out more…

 

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Guide to Heirloom Purchases

Today we’re going to look at which heirlooms you should purchase for your leveling alts. A couple of weeks ago I covered Enchanting Your Heirlooms, so I’ll refer you back to that post if you have already purchased heirlooms and would like to look into the various ways that you can enhance their performance via enchants and item enhancements.

Equipment Lists
I’m going to make a list of heirlooms for each class individually, and I will mention certain items that would work better for certain specs as well. I will tell you right now though, that while I have leveled most classes to a significant leveling milestone, I have not played every class and every spec. So if you see me suggest an item for your class because I know you’re looking for Spell Power, but you feel it would be better for you to go with another because it has Spirit as well as Spell Power, then go with your gut as you may very well know that particular class better than I do.

What I am going to have is a list of weapons, chests, and shoulders for you to use in each of your different specs, and a (hopefully) short explanation of why. In some cases there may be multiple suggestions made for a particular slot, particularly when it comes to weapons. The reason for this will generally be because there are multiple builds that people use for that class, or because certain equipment options aren’t available until a higher level. A good example of this is the Enhancement Shaman who benefits more from a large two-hand weapon until level 40 when they can dual wield one-handers, or the Warrior who may dual wield one-handers until level 60 and then dual wield two-handers from there on.

Under each class header you’ll find the list of gear that I suggest and prefer. There will also be a Substitutions list which are items that I consider to be reasonable replacements for the items I suggest in case you already have some of those and would rather not purchase others, or in case you have more of one currency than another and can’t afford all of the recommended pieces.
Turn the page to find out more…

 

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