Arcane Sanctum: Tackling solo challenges as a Mage
However you play World of Warcraft, there are always going to be times in the game when you’re running solo. From tackling elites out in the larger world to soloing old raid and dungeon content for transmog, gold or materials, we can’t always rely on the kindness of strangers. Although Mages aren’t universally seen as an “ideal” soloing class like Death Knights or any class with plenty of self-heals, don’t discount the number of solo challenges we can handle on our own with careful preparation, and understanding of both our abilities and the enemies we’ll be facing.
It’s the small things that count, here, and it’s really up to you how far you want to go. If you’re going to be tackling some solo challenges that may be pretty tough for you, don’t forget that you always have the option of using consumables. If you want to be very cost-effective about it, you can use Oralius’ Whispering Crystal and the food that drops from your tree in a level three garrison, such as Giant Nagrand Cherry. These small boosts to your stats can still increase your chances of success!
The first possible obstacle when a mage is soloing is a big one: we don’t have easy access to a reliable ability to heal ourselves without cooldown constraints. Although we once had a glyph to add a healing component to Evocation, that was removed, as well as access to Evocation for specs other than Arcane. So what’s a mage to do?
The only class-specific thing we have is Glyph of Regenerative Ice. This is your self-heal to consider glyphing. If you happen to be playing a Draenei Mage, you also have access to Gift of the Naaru on a reasonably short cooldown so make sure you don’t neglect that. Now, as far as other options go you’ll have to rely on consumables that any class can utilize. Healing tonics should be brought along. If you’ve leveled First Aid you can also employ Antiseptic Bandages to heal yourself in a pinch. Keeping in mind that taking damage will interrupt them, so you’d need to root an enemy and then Blink to safety in order to use them in combat. If you’re out of combat, you can always chow down on some Conjured Mana Fritters.
Don’t forget your Polymorph exists for more than just occasional group use when the raid leader or tank asks you to Polymorph something! Polymorph is a powerful tool for controlling pulls when you’re out in the world soloing things. If you know that you’ll get aggro on multiple mobs, preemptively Polymorph one if it’s an eligible target. It will no longer attract the attention of any enemies that aren’t Polymorphed, although you should be prepared to acquire an angry “friend” if you let the spell lapse without refreshing it.
Our third tier of talents is devoted to various methods of shutting down enemies: Ring of Frost, Ice Ward, and Frostjaw. Ring of Frost is useful in group situations, or when you’re going to be soloing many things at once and want to make them more manageable. But overall, Ice Ward is the most useful talent in this tier for Mages of any spec. You can cast it on yourself with only a 20 second cooldown, and it will buy you a few moments to Blink and regain distance from an enemy. If you aren’t using Supernova or Blast Wave, you can also use Frost Nova in any spec for the same effect.
Your next option, of course, is to not take damage in the first place. Frost Mages have a natural advantage here, because so many of their abilities will slow enemies. This is one of the major reasons why the flippant answer to “How should I solo things as a Mage?” is often “Spec Frost.” Some folks may want to do that, and that’s fine, but you are absolutely capable of soloing plenty of content as a Fire or Arcane Mage, especially with the way that talents are designed now, allowing us to pick and choose. You’re trying to avoid taking damage from an enemy. Evanesce is a great talent choice for this reason, keeping in mind that by taking it you sacrifice the ability to use Ice Block as a healing ability. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether this is worthwhile for you personally. If you don’t take Evanesce in this tier you can use Ice Floes for casting while doing a bit of kiting, or Blazing Speed to zip away quickly.
The second tier of Mage talents also contains the most potent choices related to damage avoidance. You can take either Alter Time, Flameglow, or Ice Barrier. The strongest choices for soloing here are either Alter Time or Ice Barrier. Ice Barrier’s usefulness extends to whether or not you’re going to be hit very often. Its greatest benefit, apart from the damage it absorbs, is its ability to prevent damage from interrupting your spellcasting. Alter Time can be used to great effect if you’re good at timing it. Hit it when your health is nice and high, and then (if you aren’t going to die before its duration expires) let it bump you back up to nearly full health. If your death seems imminent, you can always trigger it ahead of time.
Finally, the last tier that concerns us as a soloing Mage is the fourth tier, where you’ll be choosing between Greater Invisibility, Cauterize and Cold Snap. Each of these has their uses. Greater Invisibility can be excellent for pulling you out of trouble if you’ve bit off more than you can chew while soloing most things out in the world. You can’t generally use its damage/DoT reduction function because if you cast it, whatever you’re fighting will simply reset if there’s no one else on its aggro table. Cauterize can prevent you from dying, but unless you can kill whatever you’re soloing immediately thereafter, you’ll probably have to cast Invisibility in any case. Finally, Cold Snap can reset some of your major abilities for you (these vary depending on spec) as well as your Ice Block. This can be nice if you’re utilizing Glyph of Regenerative Ice, but you’ll sacrifice either Cauterize or Greater Invisibility in order to obtain it.
One of our major strengths when it comes to soloing is that we still have many tricks up our sleeves to remain mobile. Even a Frost Mage isn’t a tank, so your soloing strategy generally won’t be to just stand toe-to-toe with something. You also don’t want to be sprinting all over the place constantly unless there’s a specific mechanic that requires kiting.
Your best bet is to remember your mobility tools: Ice Floes, Blink (possibly with Glyph of Rapid Displacement) and anything that slows or stops an enemy in its tracks. Use your natural advantage to stay just out of reach of what you’re fighting while taking them down quickly. Your normal talent choices may vary in order to serve this end, too. For example, Incanter’s Flow will probably be better than Rune of Power for most soloing applications.
Kill it before it kills you
This brings us to the final but probably most important advice when soloing anything. Kill it before it kills you. I’m not being facetious. We don’t have the staying power or health pool of a tank or melee DPS. We’re wearing armor that may as well be tissue paper. The biggest weapon you have in your arsenal when soloing anything is to just annihilate it as quickly as possible by maximizing your damage. This may be trickier for a Fire Mage than either Arcane or Frost with their access to powerful burst, but we all have cooldowns that can be used.
In particular, remember that if you’re soloing old raid content that Time Warp resets on a per boss basis. So use it every time, and use it early. Time Warp, blow all your cooldowns and kill that thing so you can take its stuff. If you come prepared and remember our strengths and weaknesses, you can solo plenty of content! Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to be only Frost for soloing, and good luck!
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