Monday, March 14, 2011

Controlled Mayhem: A Mage's Path (Part 1 - Know Thyself)

(Still a work in progress, but at least you guys know I'm working on something!)

As often as I get asked about Archers, I probably get double or triple the amount of advice requests from Mages.  From people in our academy, to random people I meet in Elderine, to even those that write me on the forums, aspiring Mages are always on the lookout for more information or a little help in choosing the right path.  And really, I don't mind it at all.  I'm happy to share what I know about the class while also hearing their side and considering their reasons for their differences from what I consider 'normal'.

What a Mage Is and What a Mage Isn't
The first thing that you need to do as an aspiring Mage is to come to grips with what you are and what you are not.  Facing facts and knowing your role within the game is the most important thing to get straight.  Mages are designed to be the primary killing force in a party.  While this is up for debate since oftentimes Axe-weilding Fighters may outdamage a Mage, the Mage is able to deal more damage to more targets than a Fighter can.  What the Mage wears down to 20-30% life, the Fighter can finish off.  That being said, the limitations of the Mage class should also be apparent.  Mages have the lowest natural defense and lowest amount of HP of any class (all things being equal).  The "Glass Cannon" reference is a popular term and it fits, immense power potential, but extremely fragile.

As a mage you will have to deal with death, unfortunately it is just the way the world works.  Being that Glass Cannon means that you will oftentimes draw aggro with your massive damage dealing capabilities at the expense of your low defense and meager HP.  So yes, you will die.  A lot.  That being said, should you expect to die?  Should you always just wait for the inevitable?  Or should you do everything in your power to keep that from happening?

A Mage's best bets for survival are defense, evasion, and firepower.  As eluded to before, you will draw aggro and you will get attacked.  How you manage your defense is of extreme importance.

My take on Mage survival is that as a Mage, you must do everything in your power to keep yourself alive.  It is for the sake of the party that you must survive.  This means, being fully scrolled, having enhanced armor, a +9/+10 weapon, and managing your HP Stone/HP Pot cooldowns flawlessly.  Nobody ever said being a Mage was going to be cheap.  If you want to level up on the cheap, go be a Cleric.

So why is my own survival important to the party?
Again as the main damage dealer in the party, if you die, typically the party is overrun.  Also when you die, the party's defense becomes lower increasing the chances of that happening.  You should never fully rely on the tank to control all aggro at all times, it's nearly impossible.  At the same time, never fully rely on the cleric to keep you alive.  In an AOE party, one in which one or more players are pulling mobs to a central area for the Mage to obliterate, the Mage has to stay alive to continue pouring out damage through both AOE spells and single-target ones.  In this type of environment, if you die, unless there is another Mage, aggro will typically immediately shift to the Cleric.  Smart Clerics can mitigate the aggro by continuing to run the mobs around your AOE circles or work their way back to the Fighter so that he can pull enough of them back so that the Cleric can safely revive you.  Not all Clerics are able to do this either because of lack of defense, lack of know-how, or sheer panic.  In the event the Cleric dies, all party buffs go down and the remnants of the party get torn to shreds by the mass of mobs that were pulled.

A lot of players that start off as Fighters and then switch to Mages have difficulty with pacing.  As a Fighter, you can typically just rush into a mob swing that axe around a bit and come out okay.  As a Mage, this kind of action will get you killed.  That being said, Mage's need to learn both pacing and spacing.  By feel, a Mage should know the max distance their skills will work from, how hard mobs hit, and how many mobs they can handle at once.

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