I've been hearing a lot of people rip on mages lately. "Broken class," they say, or "like a Warlock, but worse." Worst of all... "vending machines."
Are the criticisms of mages entirely wrong? Nah. But I'd like to counter a few of the most popular.
1.) Mages are underpowered in PvP.
I tend to agree with this, to an extent. Mages are indeed limited to one spec for effective PvP, namely Frost, and at poor gear levels Mages get eaten up by just about everyone else. Sure, Fire Mages can blow people up in AV, but for just about anything where you're being focused, Frost is it. And the dominance of Warlocks over Mages in PvP is well-documented and valid.
A well-played mage, however, can be a real force to be reckoned with. The RMP build has proven this over the course of multiple seasons - the superior mobility and extreme burst potential of the Mage makes it a great PvPer, albeit only in the right hands.
Verdict? More skill required than some other classes, but not nearly as broken in PvP as, say, Shamans.
2.) Mages are losing the DPS race to Warlocks, a class that shouldn't be beating them.
There are certainly cases where this is true - Seed of Corruption is a better AoE in raids like Mount Hyjal than Arcane Explosion, regardless of AE's much lower threat generation. I completely agree that Mages need a better AoE.
However, when it comes to single-target DPS, only the very highest levels of raiding will see Warlocks universally beating Mages. On my own Mage, in Tier 5 content, I was right there alongside even the best warlocks.
I think part of the reason so many Mages are losing their rightful place on the damage meters is a matter of failing to play their class with a dominant attitude. I was used to topping the meters in my original, very casual guild, so I expected to do so all the time, and when I didn't it drove me to improve. Mages who believe the old "Warlocks are better" axe don't try anymore.
If you're rolling a Fire spec you found on Elitist Jerks, you're not maximizing your DPS. I tried all the Fire specs, specs with Icy Veins, specs with Clearcasting, everything, and what did I discover? My best DPS was with an Arcane/Frost (40/0/21) spec. And that was just for the average night of raiding! On fights where you stand still and DPS the whole fight, Fire may well be better, but on fights where DPS time is limited or threat is capped, Fire is far from my favorite.
Verdict? If you want to spec a certain way and top the damage meters without trying, roll a Warlock. If you want to top the DPS meters as a mage, you have some work ahead of you.
3.) So what if you can compete with Warlocks? Warlocks can do everything you can do, and have better survivability, endless mana pools, and cast spells that half of raid bosses aren't immune to!
This is actually kind of a toughy. There are things that Mages have that Warlocks don't, sure, like the oh-so-useful Ritual of Refreshment, Arcane Brilliance, and Polymorph, but those functions can often be supplanted by, respectively, vendors, scrolls, and Seduce.
The issues of resistances is a frustration, too. Thankfully, only a very few bosses (Rage Winterchill, I hate you) are resistant or invulnerable to both Arcane and either Fire or Frost, so there's always Arcane Blast, a tricky but very powerful spell.
Warlocks do have a huge advantage in mana conservation from Lifetap. Arcane talents can work wonders for a Mage's mana pool, but not everyone wants to spec into Arcane. Warlocks win the mana-pool point.
But can a Warlock, faced with a dead tank in a Heroic, kite two elite mobs to their eventual deaths with or without heals?
Can a Warlock make Rogues quiver at the mere mention of their class?
Can a Warlock Ice Block out of 100% of the damage from Naj'entus' Tidal Shield or Gruul's Roof Collapse? Out of Rage Winterchill's Ice Bolt? A Frost Mage or even a 2/48/11 Fire mage can survive three Ice Bolts - let's see what happens to a Warlock.
Verdict? Warlocks are nice, I guess.
The final verdict, though, at least for me, is this: Even though I have already leveled a Mage to 70, even though I've experienced every single flaw suffered by the Mage, I'm leveling another Mage for Wrath of the Lich King.
Maybe it's the underdog effect, maybe I'm just a masochist, but I love mages. I love Water Elementals, I love Ice Block, I love actually farming Mana Potions.