Spoiler Warning: Discussion of the early Mage class experience, including when spells become available and how they impact gameplay. No lore, story or plot spoilers.
After firing up the Cataclysm beta on Friday evening, I’ve since tried a handful of characters. My level 80 mage has now been copied over, mainly so that I can have a look at the fleshed out talent trees. Because there’s a whole batch of changes to the Fire tree due to land in the next beta build, I’ve instead focused on the experience of rolling a new mage.
I initially started off by rolling a Gnome but there are currently a handful of bugs for both Gnomes and Trolls at character selection. As a result I decided to try a Worgen so that I could get a feel for the new starting area at the same time. Don’t worry though, I’ll be keeping this all Mage-centric.
Starting With Fire
The first spell you start off with as a mage is Fireball. And that’s it. No self-buffs, no other schools. You have one button to press and you’ll be pressing it a lot. The aim here is to streamline the experience and introduce new spells gradually. Great for those new to the class, but seasoned Mage veterans will be a little shocked.
For the most part it’s a smooth introduction, with mobs falling over after a couple of strikes with your trusty spell. It gives you a chance to get used to the area and the controls rather than worrying about what button to press
The Proc Pickle
At Level 3 you learn Arcane Missiles. Normally this would be a great thing, but in Cataclysm AM is purely proc-based. Cast almost any other direct-damage spell and there’s a chance that you’ll proc Arcane Missiles.
Anyone who’s played a raiding Arcane Mage will be instantly familiar with this mechanic, as it’s an almost direct copy of the old Missile Barrage talent. There are two problems I have with this choice, the first being that the procrate feels low to me. It might be that I’m missing procs due to limitations of the Standard UI – I’m used to using Power Auras and Mage Alert in order to tell me when a proc is available for me to use.
There’s another problem with having a proc based ability available so early on – how to actually make use of it! At the early levels you’re typically burning things down very quickly, so the proc usually gets wasted. Sometimes you’re lucky and can use it to pull a fresh mob, but it’s not optimal by any stretch.
One of the big uproars that initially came out of early beta announcements was the removal of Conjured Food and Water until the later levels, where mana pies and strudels would replace the individual food and water spells.
The strange thing is, I haven’t really missed it. Downtime seems to have been drastically reduced at the earlier levels, with both health and mana regen getting a significant boost. The old sequence of fight-drink-fight-drink is largely gone.
Building the Music
Things become a little more interesting around the level 5-7 mark. Mages are known for being a glass cannon, and you really begin to feel it at around this level. Mobs start to build up and swarm around you, yet without any crowd control or mob management ability, it can become a frustrating experience. Careful pulls are the order of the day to get over this hump. All the same, get used to seeing the spirit healer at the graveyard.
Fire Blast makes an appearance at level 5 as a great finishing move, but it’s not until Frostbolt arrives at level 7 that you get some ability to control the mobs around you. Frost Nova finally appears at level 8 in order to finally give you the mob control you need. You’re still running without Blink, but new mages can start getting to grips with the old-school mechanics of rooting and kiting as the way to control mobs.
Rounding things out, Counterspell becomes available at level 9. Being able to pull casters into melee while kiting them slowly using frostbolt is a classic tactic, so it’s good to see it being encouraged here.
That Mage Has Talent
Once you hit level 10 and talents become unlocked, things become substantially easier. The talent interface locks you into a specific tree until you either unlearn your talents at a trainer or reach the end of the tree. The talent interface is a slick affair and a huge improvement on the one I’m used to, so I’ll be covering it in detail once the Fire talent updates arrive.
For the moment I’ve decided to go with a frost spec, partly because I’ve not used one in a very long time (think Molten Core back in Vanilla). The other reason is that RandomPetName is ridiculously overpowered – I can pull a mob with Fire Blast and the water elemental will take it down in a single hit. In terms of mob control it’s almost an essential companion, especially if you’re going to be focusing on the kiting/rooting tricks as a way to get quests done.
Gazmundo has reached level 12, having just picked up Arcane Explosion. My next instalment will document his journey into the 20s and possibly beyond, depending on how smooth the ride goes. In the meantime, if you have specific comments, questions or things you’d like to see then please ask below.
9 thoughts on “New Mage Experience: Pt 1”
With no spell ranks now, they also have to spread the goodies out a bit more. I like it because new abilities really are new now and not just an upgrade of something I already have. It makes perfect sense things should improve as we level. Other games, like Warhammer Online, already follow that model and I really liked it there.
It really IS weird, though, starting out with a single ability, LOL. Fortunately, you get the next one fairly quickly.
Yep, I like the way that spell ranks are gone. I’m just not a big fan of the new Arcane Missiles mechanic. it just feels a bit naff to introduce it at such an early level, when you can’t make any real use of it.
I’m liking the way the toolset develops to level 10 though. The way it trains mages to handle solo content is really reminiscent of old-school Mage gameplay.
They do something similar to the AM proc with Paladins and their holy power. I can see the good and bad in this. On the one hand, it teaches key mechanics earlier. It gives you time to get used to them. Holy Power for paladins still shows up as a buff, but eventually it will be a bar. I do wonder if they’ll make the arcane missiles proc more noticeable than a buff and the button lighting up on your spell bar.
Personally, I’d really like it to be matched with an audio cue in much the same way that MageAlert currently works. Training players to divert their attention encourages them to do the wrong things – they end up watching their buffs instead of moving out of the bad etc.
So wait… does RandomPetName mean we can now name our elementals?If so, awesome! Also, are they permanent by default, or do we still need the glyph?
They’re definitely permanent by default, with a 2min cooldown on summoning. I’m not sure if it’s going to stay like that or if they’ll change it to require glyphing, but for now it always stays there.
As for naming, the first time you summon him he’s called ‘Unknown’. I think that eventually he’ll get a random name in the same way that demons do. I don’t think that you’ll be able to name them like a hunter pet.
When do we get polymorph now? Hopefully crowd control and tactics are more efficient than leeroying it now.
Polymorh arrives at 14 now. Hopefully this means that by the time you’re doing Stockades or Deadmines that you’ve got enough crowd control to cope with the instances. I’m hoping to find that out myself soon enough.