July 18, 2009

WoW Mage should do before lvl80

Contrary to popular belief, Mages do not simply spring to life at level 80. Just like other, lesser classes, we too must begin at the lowly level of one. Even Mages must put their robes on one leg at a time, place one frail foot in front of the other, and trudge across Kalimdor, the Eastern Kingdoms, Outland, and finally Northrend until our experience bars progress from the left side of the screen to the right side a total of 79 times.

Once upon a time, this process took awhile. An average trip to level 60 used to require the following:

Approximately 192 trips from the north end of The Barrens to the south end...on foot, uphill both ways, fending off Mankrik's wife and Chuck Norris with a stick.
Actually setting foot in Desolace. Getting dismounted several hundred thousand times in Dustwallow Marsh because you'd strayed across three inches of water. Having to wait several hours to turn in every quest in Hillsbrad Foothills, because the questgivers in Tarren Mill and Southshore are always dead. Getting eaten by a giant and improbably stealthy Devilsaur in Un'Goro Crater at least a million times, and always as far from the nearest graveyard as possible. This is all fact. Sadly (or totally not, depending on how sado-masochistic you are), leveling is no longer nearly as grueling and refining an experience as it once was. It's entirely possible to skip a whole lot of the early-game content these days, and come patch 3.2, PvP experience will allow us to skip all of it on our way to level 80. Still, there are some things I feel we're missing out on as we cruise through the old-world content these days. Follow me beyond the jump for a list of five things every Mage should do on their way to level 80.

This isn't a list of things you have to do while leveling your Mage. In fact, there simply isn't much left in the game these days that you have to do. Leveling is such a quick, streamlined process now (and only getting more streamlined in the upcoming patch), that you can really pick and choose which quests you'll do and which you won't, which zones you'll visit and which you'll never even bother to pick up the flight paths for, and which instances you might actually try to get a group for and which you'll just have a high-level guildie run you through. Gear is out-leveled so quickly that there aren't many pieces left that you need to go out of your way to get.

No, this is simply a collection of uniquely valuable experiences, and/or loot that will actually last you a few levels, I feel every Mage should partake in on their way up the level ladder. You'll make it to 80 just fine if you skip them, but they'll make the experience that much more enjoyable if you don't. In fact, even if your Mage is far beyond these things, a few of them are worth a trip back to visit the old content.

Also, none of these are absolutely mandatory (except maybe for #4). They're just ideas. In the end, level your Mage how you want. But if you do these things, I promise you one thing: You'll be more magely. What does that mean, exactly? I don't know!

1. Complete Mage-only quests

Remember these? Part of Blizzard's early design philosophy with WoW involved several quests unique to each class that provided rewards specifically valuable to that particular class. They added a bit of flavor to the proceedings, and made each class feel that much more special and different. These sort of vanished with the advent of the Burning Crusade, and I miss them.

The first of these comes into play at level 10 and provides you with your choice of what will likely be your first green-quality staff or off-hand frill item, with another following at level 15 that grants you a nice green-quality robe. There's a chance, especially if you have a high-level main bankrolling your Mage, that you'll already have better gear than these quests provide by the time they become available, but the quests are worthwhile simply from a lore perspective in any event. Doing them just makes you feel like a Mage, and I can't think of many things more valuable than that.

The level 10 quests for Alliance Mages can be found here and here, their Horde counterparts here and here, and the level 15 mini-chains end here, here and here.

More Mage-only quests come along as you go, but most require trips into instances that may or may not be worth the effort to get groups for. I did them back in the day, when you could actually find other people who wanted to visit Uldaman, and they were a pain even then. If you're willing to invest the time and possible frustration, I'd encourage doing them, but if not, I suspect you'll still find your way to 80 anyway.

I'd at least recommend doing the chain that leads you to Sunken Temple to kill Morphazz. The trinket you can choose as a reward will serve you well into Burning Crusade's content, and is worth picking up if you're a Fire Mage, even with the hassle that is Sunken Temple taken into account. If you aren't a Fire Mage, the dagger is at least unique, and the neck item is decent also, though far more quickly replaced than the trinket.

2. Take Tailoring

This is more a mater of personal preference than anything. Take whatever professions you want to take. But unless you have a high-level character funding your newbie Mage, leveling one can be so much easier with Tailoring. Here's why:

Gear you can use. Most of everything you can make with Tailoring can be used by a Mage, and if you level it on pace with your experience level, you can generally upgrade your gear largely through your own sewing prowess, which is always a good feeling. Bags. It's difficult to describe how much simpler the leveling process is with bag-space than it is without. Being able to make your own instead of having to brave the auction house or pray for drops is a wonderful thing. Excellent at end-game. Two words for you: Lightweave Embroidery. That alone makes this one of the prime raiding professions at end-game for Mages, and you'll already have it leveled up when you get there. Extra professions slot. Since there's no gathering profession associated with Tailoring, you can fill that leftover slot with any other tradeskill you fancy. 3. Get into groups for instances

I know it's a pain now. Nobody's looking for groups for the low instances anymore. In fact, it's entirely possible that you'll have to wait to get into Outland to group with all-Death Knight parties or something to even find a group. It's a crying shame, but people just don't seem to want to bother with places like Shadowfang Keep or Scarlet Monastery anymore. But look at some of the loot you can get in those two instances alone:

Robes of Arugal
Belt of Arugal
Eerie Stable Lantern
Feline Mantle

Blighted Leggings
Bloodmage Mantle
Hypnotic Blade
Illusionary Rod
Mantle of Doan
Orb of the Forgotten Seer
Whitemane's Chapeau
Triune Amulet

Plus, by going in as a group, no matter the hassle in getting that group together, you will get much-needed experience. I'm not just talking about the experience that comes in the form of actual points, but the experience that comes by doing a thing. Which brings me to the next thing every Mage needs to do...

4. Learn how to Mage

You can really only do this in similarly leveled groups. With the general speed of leveling, the watering down of previously elite group quests, and the difficulty in finding low-level instance groups of late, the opportunities for traditional grouping while leveling have become increasingly rare. Many Mages are making it all the way to level 80 in a largely solo fashion, meaning that it's entirely possible for us to make it to endgame without ever learning the most essential roles of our class. Three basic lessons we need to learn during the leveling process and before trying to step into the end-game content:

How to sheep. Though this isn't as imperative as it once was, it's still important. Mages need to learn how to set a mob as their focus, then keep that mob CCed while still DPSing the group's main target. How to manage threat. When you're solo, you're focused on nuking your enemies down as fast as possible, but this mentality can and will get you and your group killed in an instance. Get a threat-meter mod like Omen and learn to throttle back on your DPS a bit before you yank mobs from the tank. How to DPS. Fireball>Fire Blast>Arcane Explosion may be how you kill mobs while questing, but it isn't an effective spell rotation. Learn an effective rotation for your spec and level, and refine it as you advance. By the time you hit level 80, you'll have a better handle on how to pump out consistent, mana-efficient DPS on a ranged target, and this knowledge is essential as you set foot in your first raiding encounters. 5. Get Polymorph: Pig

This is another Mage-only quest, and one that's especially easy to miss these days. By the time it becomes available at level 60, most of us will be halfway through Hellfire Peninsula, and we may have skipped the zone it's found in (Ashzara) altogether. If this is the case, make the trip back to Azeroth at least long enough to pick up this variation on our signature spell. Track down Archmage Xylem way up in his tower in the mountains and start the relatively simple chain that leads to this spell. Again, this is more for flavor than anything else, but I'd recommend it, if only so that you can have a little variation in your sheeping.

Some other random tips that aren't Mage-specific enough to be part of the list:

The Blood Elf/Draenei starting areas are better organized, prettier, and offer better loot than any other level 1-20ish zones in the game. Dustwallow Marsh is awesome now; make it your stop in the 35-40 range instead of boring old Stranglethorne Vale. But for heaven's sake don't try to fight Overlord Mok'Morrok when the quest to do so becomes available to you. He will kill you. It will be violent and quick. The rewards are kind of crappy anyway. Have a high level friend help you, or get a group when you get to a higher level. I will never understand why they made this quest so much more difficult than the quests that led up to it. It's plain stupid. The Inscription-made Darkmoon decks are great sources of cheap gear and experience when you hit their appropriate levels. Pick them up at the auction house (usually on the cheap) or make friends with somebody who's leveling Inscription (or level it yourself, if that tickles your fancy) and steal the cards from them. No single chains are more valuable while leveling in terms of loot, experience, gold, and potions than the Ring of Blood quests in Nagrand at level 65 and the Amphitheater of Anguish at level 75 in Zul'Drak. There are almost always people looking for these in their respective zones, so when you hit the appropriate levels for them, go forth and group up. What else would you recommend, fellow Mages? I'm sure there a whole boatload of ideas out there that I'm not even thinking of or don't even know about. Share your wisdom!

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