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So, Orphan’s Week. I do holiday achievements on my mage Invariant. It’s sort of an apology to her for not being my main any more, plus Analogue has flight form and doesn’t need a proto drake. So there.

I’ve gotten to needing Flame Warden (accidentally did that one on Analogue), two Hallow’s End achievements, and Children’s Week, which is the one I’ve been dreading. Saturday I spent farming up the Lovely Cakes and such that we’d need (they had gone to 100g on the AH when I checked) so that we could concentrate on School of Hard Knocks.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy PvP. In BC when Invariant was my only max level character, PvP was my end game. Heck I got her all decked out in purple shinies including the staff that looked like it might have questionable alternative uses (the pink glowing rotating… whatever… at the top. What was that anyway?). All from battlegrounds because I am not and never will be any good at arenas.

But you see, I have a really great mage pvp strategy. I spec into fire. I hate frost, just don’t like the playstyle at all. Then I run at a bunch of enemies and do as much damage as possible in the ten seconds before I die. This strategy works great when I get in a bg mood, which hasn’t happened lately honestly. Unfortunately it doesn’t work well for the School of Hard Knocks achievement, which requires me to accomplish goals with my orphan out.

Still. Ok, activate pvp spec. Check what I’ve got for pvp gear… ouch, not much, I did some pvp at the start of Wrath but I have very little. Still what I’ve got gives me 250 resilience which is better than nothing. I queue up and get started.

Arathi Basin has always been my favorite BG. It feels like the right size of battle, I can usually contribute and I know the strategies. In this case, I headed right for the Gold Mine – the Stables was the noob “click on the flag with the orphan out” honeypot – and get it done. Ten seconds in, we’re good, now I can enjoy this bg. Well I stay at the mine with a few other orphan tenders and when a horde guy comes by, we let him cap and then they recap a few times, and then the guy wanders away…. by this time every point has exchanged hands a dozen time and I realize this could be a long battle.

I look around for action. For a while there’s a bit of a fight at the Lumber Mill, but then the Horde take it pretty solidly and the Alliance doesn’t want to press there. So I go the the Blacksmith. It’s currently ours and Horde keep coming by to try to cap. I hang out by the flag and every time a group shows up – Tab, Living Bomb, Tab, Living Bomb, Tab, Living Bomb PYROBLAST TO THE FACE! How’d you like that? MWAHAHA. We held that flag against all comers for the next ten minutes; it ended up being the only place in the BG that actual pvp was taking place.

Lost the battle, got the objective.

WG next  – I come into a battle that’s already started and a Tauren immediately tries to stomp in my head. I manage to finish him off and notice that there’s a Troll picking up and dropping our flag, so I get that achievement too.  The game stretches on… and on…. and on… There were about two players on each side actually trying to run the flag. They got nowhere until five minutes from the end when the Horde decided to go on offense and we had to really fight to defend the flag. It ended up as a 0-0 tie. And frankly the most boring battleground I’ve ever been in. I had thought the AB was bad until I got to the Blacksmith for the battle there; that was nothing compared to dancing in our flagroom waiting for something to happen. (Go run the enemy flag yourself? I hear someone ask. Dude. Fire mage wearing non-pvp gear. That’s just not happening.)

Alterac Valley – fun BG usually. My first two tries dumped me into mostly complete battles where the Horde set up a gauntlet halfway down the map ganking anyone who tried to get to the end. No chance to try a tower. The third one, Reversion brought his hunter Approximate along. Approx is his pvp and holiday achievement character, and has a motorcycle and pvp gear. He got me into a tower in time to cap it. Yay! And then we puttered around killing things until someone managed to zerg rush the enemy boss. I mostly died a lot. I need better gear.

Eye of the Storm. Never a fan of this place. And right now, it’s a nightmare. The objective for the achievement is to cap a flag. I’m not sure I’ve ever capped a flag there. I’ll find out when I get it done as there’s an achievement for the first time you cap a flag. The first one I went to, we got three capped and the Horde kept the flag. Miserable failure. The second one, I ended up rousing the troops, running a solid defense of the Mage Tower  and Draeni ruins, pushing hard at the Horde; we had the flag the whole time and won convincingly. I never got near the flag. Clearly I’m doing this wrong. I envision a lot of EotS this week to get the achievement.

On the positive side, I’m gaining honor. Got to check a list for PVP gear for Invariant and maybe respec… I took Dragon’s Breath out and a knockout is great for pvp… she’s got a few arcane points she doesn’t actually need.

On the whole, Blizzard succeeded in making me want to pvp again with this achievement. They also succeeded in making pvp kind of boring. There were battlegrounds where I only died once or twice. That… doesn’t happen, not with my gear like this. Hopefully I’ll stay in a pvp mood next week when it’s fun again. Right now – well sorry hardcore pvp folks, I’m in UR BGs being a N00b. And sorry achievement mongers – I’m just good enough at the bg to mess up things for you. Don’t hate me – hate the shiny shiny protodrake-shaped carrot on a stick Blizzard is dangling at you…

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The secret to getting the most out of leveling with someone else is in understanding exactly what your class brings to the duo. For a pure dps class, one with no pet and the survivability of a cloth-wearing snowball in hell, the mage can be a powerful addition to a pair.

First, the obvious utility spells. Conjured food and water mean you can avoid spending gold on these. Time between fights is reduced when you can recharge your mana-batteries quickly and easily. The portals you won’t get until 40, at which point you can get from Kalimdor to the Eastern Kingdoms a lot faster than a group with no mage, making Fedex quests a breeze. Dampen and Amplify Magic are almost totally useless spells – unless you’re leveling with a warrior and receiving no healing anyway, in which case reducing the magical damage you might take is great. And Feather Fall is situationally useful.

Second, crowd control. These days nobody uses it at high levels but you can and should use it as you level up. Convince your partner to let you sheep things at the start of a pull. Frost nova and blink away from mobs. Use frost bolts to slow things down. You’re more likely to survive when one of the six gnolls that want your spleen is suddenly a fluffy sheep and the rest are struggling across frozen ground while pelted with shards of ice.

Third, sheer firepower. It’s hard to match a mage for damage as you’re leveling up, and if you’re leveling with someone specced into healing especially you’re going to be doing the lion’s share of the killing. Just remember that especially in the first fifteen levels you are going to pull aggro off your partner even if you’re teamed up with a tank class, and be ready for it.

Tips for Leveling

First, do not spec Arcane. Arcane is not viable until you get Arcane Blast at level 64. Your choices are to level Fire or Frost. A mage who is planning to do a lot of soloing should level Frost. This is also a good spec if you are leveling with a healer or with some other squishy dps class. You can slow things down and kite them while taking little damage yourself.

However, if you’re leveling with a tanky class, you might spec Fire instead. Let your meat shield pick up aggro while you lob balls of fire at the kobolds’ heads. There are plenty of sites out there with leveling mage builds and I won’t replicate that here, but here’s a fire and here’s a frost that are pretty cookie cutter.

You and Your Partner

If you are paired with a warrior, hunter, enhancement shaman, ret paladin (at early levels, or prot later) or feral druid: Spec fire, let your partner or partner’s pet keep aggro on the mobs. Kill things. Don’t pull aggro; cast fireballs and pyroblasts at one mob as a time as long as the tank isn’t dying. This can work with a warlock with a voidwalker out too but warlocks and mages are bad pairs. One second you’re questing, the next second you’ve destroyed two or three countries and your hair is missing.

If you are paired with a priest, balance/resto druid, some sort of shaman that isn’t enhancement (I don’t think they’re doing it right. Unless she’s a resto shaman and you’re doing a lot of LFD), holy pally, or rogue: Spec frost. Plan your pulls carefully. Sheep things, then use frost nova to trap them, empowered blizzard to slow them. Kite ‘em, shoot frostbolts, don’t let them near your partner if he’s healing you.

Either way, things are now dead. Sit down and have some conjured bread and water. Steal the kobold’s candle. Profit.

Other things to consider: Try to get your partner to role a class that does not wear cloth. If you’re teamed with a warlock or shadow priest, you’ll be fighting over gear. You aren’t likely to find a wand until level 15 or so, unless you get lucky, so you might have an enchanter make you a low level wand (the mats are pretty darn cheap). You’ll want a wand; at low levels your mana can disappear fast and leave you no way to kill the mostly-burned-to-death boar that suddenly isn’t dying. Do a little research as you level up to learn real details; this is supposed to give you a feel for the flavor and fun that a mage brings to a pair.

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