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WoW ClassicAug 23, 2019 10:00 am CT

A WoW Classic Mage retrospective, with special guest Christian Belt

To readers old and new, I wish to introduce you to a friend of the site: Christian Belt. He used to be the Mage columnist at WoW Insider, and despite the fact that I never played a Mage, I read every word he wrote because they always made me laugh. When I heard about WoW Classic, I emailed him and asked if he would like to write a throwback article on the original Mage.

The email was a shot in the dark: I hadn’t spoken with Christian in seven years, and I didn’t have much hope that the address I had for him was still good.

He responded to me within ten minutes. I am humbled and grateful that he was willing to write this article for us, and I hope you enjoy his quirky sense of humor as much as I always have.

So without further ado, let’s take a look back at old-school WoW Mages…

By Christian Belt

Flash back with me, if you will, to the fall of 2005:

Gwen Stefani was not, in fact, our Hollaback girl. Brangelina had just split up, throwing us all into turmoil. A young Rob Schneider taught the world to love in Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalo. And somewhere, a Mage was planting a Presence of Mind Pyroblast deep inside the fertile soil of a Warlock’s face.

I miss vanilla WoW. I miss it so much. Sure, the game is prettier and flashier and sexier now. Sure, level 60 is something you hit approximately 2 hours into the game now. But there was just something about those simpler times, when there were only three raids and all of them were hard, that still resonates with me.

And clearly I’m not alone. There’s a reason Blizzard has finally decided to create legitimate, official vanilla servers, and that reason is that for over a decade we as a player base have demanded they do so. We have begged, we have pleaded, and we have done everything possible to relive the game’s earliest days.

Now that the dev-gods have shown us favor, I figure it’s time to revisit how Mages actually worked in this brave new/old pre-Burning Crusade world we will soon have access to.

Fire, Frost, and Arcane… but mostly Frost

Remember that time when we all had to spec Frost or be laughed out of Molten Core? I remember. I hated Frost. I wanted to be a Fire Mage. “But the mobs in Molten Core are fire-resistant,” they all told me. And they were right. They were so very right.

So against my will I specced Frost. I cast so many Improved Frostbolts I lost feeling in my hotkey. But hey, at least I wasn’t an Arcane Mage, right? Did those even really exist in vanilla? They were like super ineffectual unicorns. But maybe I misremember. Maybe you were that guy out there spending five points in Wand Specialization and then sitting back behind the tank, just wanding the living crap out of everything in sight.

If so, brave soul, I salute you.

But for me, Fire was where it was at. Mages were meant to hurl Fireballs. This is an integral part of my core belief system. I went just far enough into the Arcane tree to grab Presence of Mind, then I spent all my other talent points on things that made mobs burn. It was a great leveling spec that was utterly useless in a couple of raids (Blackwing Lair, I’m looking at you), but it really shone in most of the others.

Mages brought a lot to the (literal) table

One of the great things that I miss about old-school WoW is how distinct each class felt from one another. Mages were in many ways indispensable. It was good to know that you brought something unique and valuable to the table.

And Mages literally brought things to the literal table. I remember showing up an hour before every raid to start conjuring food and water for everybody. I always felt the way I imagine my grandma felt every year when prepping for Thanksgiving: filled with both the satisfaction that comes from providing a delicious meal and the bitterness that comes from having to serve it to a bunch of ungrateful jerks who take you for granted.

While lots of classes had ways to control crowds, nobody had quite as awesome a crowd control option as Mages. With a flick of our wands, we could turn that scary mob into an adorable sheep. And if you’re the idiot who broke my sheep, I swear by my magical dress I will end you. Every group needed a Mage. Whether it was a 5-man instance run or a 40-man raid, you wanted that sweet, sweet Polymorph in your playbook.

Raise your hand if you ever just hung out in Orgrimmar selling portals. Yes, we all did it. It was easy money and it made us feel superior. Mages love feeling superior. Now raise your hand if you ever opened a portal to the wrong place on purpose just to see if that Warlock would step through into Thunder Bluff by mistake.

No? Just me?

As fragile as glass… or maybe more

Still, there’s no denying one fact about Mages in vanilla: we were the glassest of glass cannons. Once Battlegrounds opened up, I learned that lesson over and over and over again.

And then again.

In Alterac Valley I liked to play a game. It was called: How Many Fireballs Can I Get Off Before They Notice Me And I Die Horribly. It was a fun game, but somehow I always felt like the loser. I would just hide somewhere, preferably deep within a crowd of heavily-armored allies, and rain fiery destruction down upon my foes until death made that an unviable option. Respawn, repeat. It was a good time for everyone.

The tradeoff, of course, was the “cannon” part. As long as no one homed in on your whereabouts, you could bring a highly satisfactory amount of the pain with this simple step-by-step process:

  1. Sheep some poor Warlock in Arathi Basin.
  2. While he’s busy wandering aimlessly, doing sheep stuff over by the lumber mill, hard-cast a Pyroblast.
  3. Hit your Presence of Mind/Pyroblast macro.
  4. Offer up a short prayer for his immortal soul to find peace in whatever afterlife he believes in.

That old/new vanilla feeling

I don’t really know what these new Blizzard-approved vanilla servers will truly be like, but whatever Blizzard ends up releasing, I only know that I look forward to leveling a Fire Mage through it, happy as a pointy-hatted, robe-and-wand wearing clam. There was no feeling better than glass cannoning my way through that wonderful vanilla world over a decade ago, and I can only hope that this shiny new version of that dusty old MMORPG allows me to recapture a tiny bit of that feeling.

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