Last week, I saw a cry for help in Twitter for good mage resources. Since I love mages, my immediate thought was: Ooh, I could help! But as it turns out, the only things I've really written about mages were either senseless lists encouraging other people to be jerks or angst at Blizz for consistently giving us crappy changes in the patches and trivializing us to the point of being good for int, focus magic and food.
Anyhow, Miss Bubbles found something else and mentioned it and I Googled it to see what she had discovered. As I started reading through the guide, my instant response was no no no nonononononononono!
Wherefore doth every mage advice giver say "Level frost!"? That advice is shit, so I figured it was up to me to provide an alternate viewpoint in the sea of frost-loving tards to say, bravely and with great conviction, don't go frost. Go fire. Or arcane. But don't go frost.
And here's why - frost is lame. The only thing it is good for is survivability in PvP or PvP-esque encounters (looking at you faction champs!). Aside from that, it is painful and lame and I will mock you should I ever PUG an instance with you. Hard core and behind your back. Because that's how I roll.
So here, from 10-80, is the way I would spend those precious talent points and why.
Ha! You don't get talents! You do get the basics of your toolbox though.
Spells to watch for: You get all the bare basics here. Food, water, int, fireballs and frostbolts. You'll also get your first armor, Frost Armor, and sorry, you're stuck with it for a while. Polymorph also comes into play and both can be life savers so make sure they're very available.
This is going to sound a little 'backards,' but I strongly advise putting the first 11 points into the frost tree. This is because Blizz is making an obvious attempt to steer people into the frost tree and gives mostly frost-based spells for the first several levels. Like many other classes, mages aren't actually any fun until about level 20 or so. Thank God they've tweaked the mana regen issues too, because the water they let you make is crap. Anyhow, you can't go wrong with Precision and Icy Veins is an absolute must. So the first three points should go into Ice Floes to reduce that CD for when you get Icy Veins. As soon as you do, abandon the frost tree with all haste. Unless you want to go frostfire at end game, there's never any good reason to put another point in there. Also as soon as you get Icy Veins, macro that sucker to whatever spell it is you choose to spam.
Spells to watch for: You get a few AoE abilities through here - Flamestrike and Arcane Explosion. Slow Fall is nice, especially when you glyph for it. Blink is your friend in sticky situations, use it with Frost Nova for a quick escape before following up with a Blizzard AoE. Evocation can cut down on drink time so use it whenever you can between pulls.
Level 21-30 Fire
I switched between arcane and fire while leveling Alas, and loved each one fairly equally. In this guide, I will focus on fire only since I do tend to recommend to guild-mates that they go fire just because it's so damn much fun. There's a lot of nice stuff to be had, even at the bottom of the tree (or top depending on how you like to look at it. I call it the bottom because it's the first stuff you get...). In fact, there is so much nice stuff that I often have problems advising people on what to pick up first. I try to lean more towards what I feel would be useful for leveling, rather than what you'll absolutely want to have for the raiding scene. Since the lower levels are pretty spammy with with the same spell over and over, I am recommending Improved Fireball, followed by Ignite for the DoT effect.
Spells to watch for: You get Scorch, Counterspell and Ice Block here. Use Scorch with wild abandon in your rotation and counterspell is great for bringing casters into melee range when running with a tank. Ice Block is another life saver if you overpull and there's someone around to help you out. If you're alone, you're just postponing squishy, squishy death. Mana gems also start here and they are delightful to use during pulls so you don't have to stop mid-fight for Evocation.
Level 31-40 Fire
This is about the level range you get to start picking up some more interesting stuff. Although I have filled out a few more things in the second tier, you'll want to go ahead and pick up Pyroblast first. This is a terrific (long cast) spell to start a fight with, especially when it crits. World of Flames will improve that crit chance and then Flame Throwing will increase the distance the mob has to run to reach you. Improved Scorch is handy for having a nice quick spell to toss on a mob that will add an extra DoT. About this point, you should be able to effectively kill most single targets before they reach you.
Spells to watch for: You get Mage Armor! Yay! Start using it immediately. That's it, unless you think portals are an exciting spell to watch for.
Level 41-50 Fire
If you're having any sort of mana problems, you'll want to drop your next few points immediately into Master of Elements to finish filling that out. Otherwise, I would start with Critical Mass and Blast Wave before going back and filling MoE in. You then have several options, all of them good, for where to drop the last four. I would pick up Improved Fire Blast from the bottom of the tree and then grab a few points in Incineration.
Spells to watch for: You get jack diddly through here. No really. More upranks of stuff you have but nothing new to speak of.
Level 51-60 Fire
As soon as you hit level 51, grab Combustion and then add that sucker to your macro with Icy Veins. Then fill out Pyromaniac before darting back up to fill out Incineration and then grab all 5 points in Fire Power. In many ways, this is where the points get harder to place because there is so much lovely stuff and so few points to actually spend.
Spells to watch for: You get jack diddly through here. Except that Arcane Brilliance is nice for having to mass buff parties/raids.
Level 61-70 Fire
There are lots of leveling goodies to pick up here. Start with filling up Hot Streak because there is nothing more wonderful than an instant cast Pyroblast after a pair of crits. Dragons Breath, Firestarter and Empowered Fire are all well worth the points, particularly if you are running a lot of dungeons with mass AoE pulls. Dragon's Breath is a point I have a love/hate relationship with, because I strongly feel that mobs shouldn't be close enough to have to use that. However, I have been known to pretend to be a melee mage so I could combine that with Firestarter and instant Flamestrike goodness. If you are doing a lot of AoE/close-to-the-mobs-damage, it is probably worth it to glyph to get rid of the knockback on on Blast Wave to keep everything in your flamestrikes. You'll also want to backtrack again to pick up a point in Molten Shields. Molten Armor becomes available at very long last at level 62 and you will want to rock that like there's no tomorrow as soon as you get it.
Spells to watch for: Molten Armor! Invisibility! Tables of food! Spellsteal can also be tons of fun - you'll soon learn which mobs have nice things to take for your own.
Level 71-80 Fire (leveling)
There are two paths to take at this point. One is to keep the fun leveling talents that you'll kiss goodbye come raiding because again, all of this has been a leveling spec and won't net you much but anger from tanks come raid time (I myself nearly got killed back in TK: The Eye for using Blast Wave with the knockback because an irate tank thought he needed to have mobs close to hit them and get aggro). Anyhow, round out the rest of the tree by getting Burnout, Living Bomb (more AoE fun and happiness) and that last point in Molten Shields. After that, you have three points left. I've seen many mages put them into Arcane Focus for the +hit. But you might also consider dropping them in Playing with Fire.
Spells to watch for: You get to ditch making food and water separately through here, as well as pick up frostfire bolt at long last (that would be the time to switch to the raid spec, btw). At 80 you get Larry, Curly and Moe, your very own three stooges, who are pretty stupid but are a nice way to drop threat when some big ugly comes after you.
Level 71-80 (prep for raiding)
If you're looking to raid, you'll want to respec right around 75, although it could certainly be held off longer. However, you will likely want to give yourself a few levels to adjust to the different play style, because it is different. If you want the cookie-cutter spec, go hit up talentchic.com or something. If you want the Alas frostfire raiding spec, click the link above. Mine is basically the cookie cutter version with a tweak that I personally refuse to live without; namely, ditching Molten Fury in order to keep the two points in Molten Shields. I think I understand the mindset behind putting points into something that boosts damage against targets with less than 35% health given the many, many bosses that enrage or get really difficult towards the end of their life spans. However, increasing overall crit all the time makes more sense to me for a build that relies so heavily upon crit.
This is all turning out to be much longer than I anticipated, so I'll add something else later about glyphs, stats and rotations in another post. In the meantime, enjoy and stay away from frost.