My Chars

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mage Musings

There's a new post over at WoW Insider called "How to fix Mages". To summarize, the author asks for more DPS.

There's around 130 comments on that post, so obviously this is something the community cares about. Skimming through them, I've seen comments both for and against the argument that mages need buffing, both by mages and non-mages.

Well since this blog is called Arcane Blaster I really should post my thoughts, even if I am more of an altoholic these days then a proper mage :)

First of all, there are several logical holes in the author's points. I'll list the points here and give my personal opinions below:

  1. There's no mention of PvP at all. Given that PvP is a big part of WoW for many players, if not the main, this is a glaring omission. Saying "but this post is about mages in PvE" just doesn't cut it, since it is well known Blizzard balances classes as much for PvP as for PvE. Therefore any discussion of mage shortcomings in PvE must consider also how they do in PvP in parallel or risk being irrelevant.
  2. There's no mention of where/how mages are not the top DPS. Is it when soloing? 5-man instances? 10-man raids? 25-man raids? SWP only? The author makes a claim but it is too general, leaving it up to the readers to guess what exactly it is that he is saying. Of course, different people guess differently, based on their experience/knowledge. Some are saying mages only become underdogs in SWP, others claim we are fine, yet others are saying we under-perform even in Kara. Without clarifying exactly what his means, the author's rant becomes too general and therefore less effective (unless you believe mages are broken everywhere).
  3. The author claims mages are broken because we can be replaced by other classes and these classes will do our job better - so obviously he's referring to raids. Yet he fails to specify exactly what these roles are and as for the top-DPS role, the author makes the extreme claim that "no less than 5 other classes" can best us at "the highest levels of the game as it currently stands".
Here are my thoughts/opinions:

Regarding point (1) above: I don't PvP much personally but PvP/Arena is a big part of WoW for many players. It is well known that Frost Mages do well in Arena. In fact, in the 3v3 Arena, a combo of Rogue/Mage/Priest won the Korea World Wide Invitational 3v3 tournament. Oh, do you know what the team name was? "Council of Mages" :) As for Arena in general, I don't know how well mages do in comparison to other classes, but at least in 3v3 and 5v5 the latest Armory analysis seems to show that mages are gaining. So, don't talk about "mages are broken". Say instead, "mages are broken in PvE", if you must!

Regarding point (2) above:
  1. Mages are fun. Like the author, I too have played a mage in WoW for 3 years (with small breaks here and there for me). I too love the class and enjoy blasting mobs. so do many (most) other mages. Therefore, unless we have serious trouble with soloing, we are not broken- for soloing.
  2. Are we broken for 5-man instances? Hardly. First of all, food/water is important and a mage's table is a very welcome sight for most 5-mans. Secondly, sheep is one of the best CC spells/abilities, arguably the best. Sap is a one-time shot; Once it breaks, you have a loose mob. Banish is repeatable but the warlock must wait till the banish full duration is over, and the mob breaks free, before he is able to re-apply it; The results can be... messy. In addition there are simply less banishable mobs in instances compared to sheepable ones. A hunter's Freezing Trap is a nice thing.. until it is resisted or for some reason broken, at which point the hunter's ability is usually on CD and you have a free and angry mob next to you. Shadow Priests have Mind Control, but this has severe range limitations and can often result in the death of the priest when the MC duration is over due to the astronomical amount of threat it generates. They also have shackle for undead; This too is less useful compared to sheep, due to a lack of undead mobs compared to humanoids/beasts. Boomkins have Cyclone, with obvious limitations. DPS Warriors and Shamans have no CC. To sum things up, currently, mages have the best form of CC. Will things be different in WotLK? Yes. But that is in the future and I believe the author was trying to imply mages are broken now...
  3. In addition to the best/most-widely-usable CC ability of any DPS class, mages also have the ability to remove curses, i.e. "decurse". Of all DPS classes, only Moonkin have this ability and Moonkin hardly compete with mages when it comes to DPS.
  4. Are we broken for raids? In blog after blog, forum post after forum post, WWS log after WWS log, I've gotten the same picture. Mages in SWP raids are doing lower DPS than other DPS classes. But he's the point - it is only there, and at the last few bosses of BT, that you see such a problem. To claim the entire mage class is broken because we don't live up to our top DPS role in content that is seen by less than 5% of the entire player population is just silly. Yes, those mages have a problem and that needs to be addressed. But in the words of the movie, for the vast majority of mages, the correct response should be "frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" :)
To summarize, mages still do amazing DPS and provide essential support (both CC and decursing) in 90% of the content in WoW - from Hellfire Ramparts in normal mode up to MH/BT fights.

Regarding point (3) above, if you're going to make extreme claims, at least provide some evidance of your words. 5 other classes can do more DPS? I've never seen anyone else claim that.
Raid survivability? With the changes to Ice Block making it trainable by all specs, claiming that mages lack survivability is ridiculous at best. Agro? T5 mages have the highest DPS/agro potential of any class, bar none. And while we lack the agro-dumping abilities of rogues, hunters and to a lesser extent warlocks and cat druids, we're still way better off than Shadow Priests, Moonkin Druids and DPS warriors and Shamans. Furthermore, while Invisibility is not ideal and frequently can be broken in mid-cast, it is there to be used, and when it works it's a 100% agro dump.
In all honesty, I don't think anyone but Blizzard can claim to know whether a class is actually doing well with regards to it's DPS. Everyone knows that Shadow Priests have low DPS (but very high utility), but are mages really inferior to warlocks? or rogues? Have you compared their gear? Raid makeup? Party makeup? Is the encounter tuned for more melee or ranged DPS? static or dynamic? There's almost no end to the variables that affect a person's DPS and many are highly personal, dynamic or situational. To make a sweeping statement that mages, as a class, are broken, is just mistaken IMHO.


Horns said...

It's, in my opinion, one of the worst posts I've ever read on Wowinsider - basically it doesn't tell you where the problems lie, and it sure isn't giving any solutions either.

Paladins have a bubble > means they're better than mages... woohoo.

Druids are unique in that they can shape-shift into awesome animal forms that amount to slightly lesser versions of several other classes.

Such class generalizations and even uninformed misconseptions isn't what I expect to read on WI - there's zero objectivity in the post, and to cut it short, the post just sucks.
That's the kind of stuff we can write on our own blogs and get away with it, but there should and usually is a fine line on what's appropriate for WI and what's not.

Saying mages are broken because they don't provide the highest damage in raids is dumb and simply looks like copy/paste from mage forums.

So what if mages don't top the charts? Tomorrow it will be another class, the day after some other.

Whining (and that's what the post is) about survivability is clearly wrong, when most other classes don't have anything like Ice Block or Invisibility. Shadowpriests, druids, warlocks (besides Soulshatter to an extent), warriors, shaman - how exactly is their survivability better?

There are mage issues which need to be addressed, but again, the post doesn't provide any solutions.


Your post however is quite nice.

Shalkis said...

You do realize that you can't use IB all the time, don't you? Good examples of encounters where mage survivability becomes an issue are Naj'entus, Gurtogg and Kalecgos. Those encounters either have an unavoidable recurring damage burst and/or DoTs, and Ice Block is only a momentary respite. It doesn't help much if you survive one burst with Ice Block and remain vulnerable to the next 5 bursts, all of which could kill you. So, mages who want that survivability need gimp themselves by wearing a lot of HP gear when other classes do not have to make such drastic tradeoffs. I'd say that's a survivability problem.

If other classes can exceed your damage output even in favorable conditions, ideal gear and optimal raid makeup, then you do have a DPS problem. However, most of the time the conditions are not favorable, because other DPS classes have more synergy benefits. Melee classes simply scale better with buffs, and warlocks scale amazingly well with shadow priests. And those classes that can provide synergy benefits to mages (like warlocks) decline to do so, because assisting mage(s) increases the total raid output less than the other things they can do. If a mage can do the highest DPS in one encounter and other DPS classes surpass the mages in the rest, would a smart raid leader pick a mage?

All in all, it boils down to the stereotype of a mage being a glass cannon: Minimal survivability compensated with the highest damage potential. If other classes than exceed that damage without sacrificing survivability as much as mages do, then mages need to be looked at. Reinforcing the role of the glass cannon is simply one alternative of many to fix mages, not the only one.

Finally, I find it a bit disengenious to claim that mages are ok because they do fine in 90% of the content, because the vast majority of the player base is at the level cap, so they only care about that 10% of the content. For example, WoW Jutsu tracks around 4 million characters, all of which have at least killed a boss in Karazhan. I'd say that an issue that has affects up to 40% of your customers is something that a game designer should give a damn.

SolidState said...

@Horns, tyvm for your comment. I agree, the author was ranting. Even if he had a valid point, it was lost in the clutter of generalizations. WTB better wowinsider mage posts... :)

@Shalkis, the original article talks about mages being broken. That's a pretty harsh statement to make and needs to be backed up. It isn't. Mages, sometimes, have a problem in certain BT and SWP fights. I can accept that. But going from there and saying all mages everywhere, in WoW in general (which includes PvP let me remind you) are broken is just nonsense.

WoW Jutsu tracks around 4 million characters, all of which have at least killed a boss in Karazhan. I'd say that an issue that has affects up to 40%

Err what are you talking about? All the examples you gave yourself are BT and SWP fights, are you now saying mages have DPS/Survivability problems in Karazhan?! If you are I'm willing to go boss fight over boss fight with you as I know them all by heart, and prove to you that the only fight where you could claim that is Shade of Aran.
5% or less of people playing WoW have seen content where mages might have a problem. So for 95% of people, mages are not broken!

Shalkis said...

[quote]Err what are you talking about? All the examples you gave yourself are BT and SWP fights, are you now saying mages have DPS/Survivability problems in Karazhan?![/quote]
Just because the problems are more serious later on it doesn't mean that the underlying causes aren't there before. A properly geared and played mage will be outmatched by other equally-well geared and -played DPS classes, even if the difference is smaller in mage-favorable encounters. Even in a such a simple encounter as Moroes you'll see plenty of setups that don't even use mages and those who do find the mages outperformed by large margins. For example, being the fifth in damage meters in an encounter where the only danger (Garrote) can be Ice Blocked away is hardly commendable.

Again, it boils down to the stereotype of a glass cannon. If a mage is supposed to be a glass cannon, then one should see higher-than-average performance in situations where survivability is not an issue and the utility (decurse) is not needed. Not the opposite.

However, if a mage is not supposed to be a glass cannon in PvE, then what is it? I agree that mages are an enjoyable soloing class and may do ok in PvP, but if they don't do well in raid PvE when other classes do, then there's still an issue that needs to be solved. All classes should do well in all three, and I'm not saying that just because of mages. Protection warriors and healers have their own justifiable grievances when it comes to soloing, and hopefully Blizzard will address those issues as well.

SolidState said...

you'll see plenty of setups that don't even use mages

Their loss :)

and those who do find the mages outperformed by large margins. For example, being the fifth in damage meters in an encounter where the only danger (Garrote) can be Ice Blocked away is hardly commendable.

There are several outstanding facts I see from your log:

1. The Warrior, Paladin and Shaman all enjoyed windfury buffs during the fight. The mage did not. I'm assuming the hunter's pet also enjoyed some extra melee damage, although I have no way of knowing if he's BM or MM.

2. Damage on moroes alone (see the breakdown column): mage-60k, Warrior-54k, Shaman-47k, Pala-46k, Hunter-38k.
To me, this suggests that the mage managed to do well against a target with longer uptime. The adds probably lived too short a time?

3. The mage had a whopping 14.2% miss rate on his Fireballs. That's way too high. I can't access the Armory link for the mage (char not found) but I am guessing a too-small +spell hit rating. Increase that to the required level and the mage would have done *much* better. Anyone playing a mage needs to get this drilled into his head - +spell hit capped above all!

4. The mage only had 94% DPS time. Actually not sure what to make of this, as the Shaman has 101% DPS time - he spent 101% of his time DPS-ing - now that's what I call going the extra mile! :)

5. The entire damage gap between 2nd and 5th places is only 8k - around 2 of that mage's crits. I'd call that within statistical variation :) The warrior? yep, fury warriors, esp. well geared ones, can give any DPS class a run for their money. The also draw agro like crazy and die a lot :)

One last point about your WWS log. 1st place in Prince fight. nuff said :D

I won't address the rest of your points. Some I consider irrelevant, some I actually agree with. But my original point stands. Mages do fine when played well, certainly up to the content I am personally familiar with - SSC/TK. Your above WWS log just shows that mages need to remember SPELL HIT FIRST :)
That doesn't mean the problem for mages doing BT/SWP is any less real, only that the class, for most people, can hardly be called "broken".

Should SWP raids take mages in spite of lower DPS in SWP fights? I have no idea, as I have not been there but I have read that you do need some sheep on trash there. Isn't CC exactly one of the strengths of the mage class currently? :)