Post by Archibolt
I regularly play both. They have regularly been either my first choice or second choice DPS class. My current main is a Fire Mage. As a result, some of my view might be biased towards mages.
I will try to break it down to how I experienced both classes throughout Cata. I will refrain from making too many comments about how they might play out in Mist as I don't play on or follow the Beta closely (I don't want to spoil it too much).Mage - Leveling:
(I will only be talking about the 80-85 period as anything else is too old for me to remember.)
Leveling as a Fire Mage can feel slow - our main nuke
is the slowest out of the three Mage specs, but in exchange it packs a lot of power. As a result, one lucky crit can take a good 50% of the mobs health, Ignite included.
The emphasis is on lucky there as above all, Fire Mage is fairly Russian Roulette-y, especially in leveling gear. From 80-83, this isn't a problem, the Stat Rating to Percentage isn't too punishing yet. However, as soon as we hit 84 and then 85, our stats tend to get slashed down fairly quickly.
Survivability and downtime is not a huge issue for Fire Mages, with Cauteriz
e on a minute cooldown, Ice Block
on 5 mins, Glyphed Evocation
on 4 mins, Mirror Image
on 3 mins, Mana Gem
on 2 mins. In short, we don't really have to sit down and drink our conjured food
too much.Mage - Gearing:
(This covers the point when you just hit 85 and before you get decent gears out of heroics and raids)
This is probably the hardest point for my Fire Mage. Casting Fireball felt slow, it rarely critted. Our DPS cooldown
is ineffective for questing.. in short I didn't enjoy it at all. With a very low Haste and Crit percentage, and our reliance on external buffs (5% Haste/5% Crit to name a few), it felt very punishing to play a Fire Mage at this point.
This is the point where I did the unthinkable ... run a Frost off-spec for questing (Out of the numerous hours I spent on my Mage, I can safely say about 95% of that was spent as Fire). Everything felt much easier. This is mostly due to the increased Crit Chance on Frozen Target
mechanism. In addition, there are simply too many ways to trigger that mechanism for it to be any hard. Mage - Dungeon/Raid:
Mages have a good single target CC in Polymorph
, a silence
that is, in my opinion on a too long of a cooldown, an emergency AoE CC
and a decent buff
. In short, Mages bring a lot to the table
Trash packs are usually where Fire Mages shine. With a talented Blast Wave
and our DoT chaining mechanism
, it isn't rare to see Fire Mages at the top of the ladder on multiple target fights.
Boss fights are more luck based, you need to trigger a good Combustion
to not fall behind. While Combustion is only about 10% of your damage on a boss fight, a good Combustion also means that you were lucky with your crits. This can feel frustrating to mages that are gearing up, but it is merely something you need to live with.
This mechanism will change with the 45s Cooldown on Combustion
, this will discourage us from sitting on our Combustion to wait for that perfect crit string. It is a good move in my opinion.Hunter - Leveling:
Leveling as a Hunter is fairly easy. With the glyph of Misdirection
, pets can maintain aggro easily, even when the Hunter isn't BM. While this is a good change to anyone who had done it the hard way previously, it felt like you had to press an extra button before every fight.
Our reliance on our pets and our lack of options in melee range was frustrating to me and took me a while to get a hold of. However, between MD, Feign Death
, Slow Traps
, this doesn't happen often.
One thing that had always bothered me is our lack of healing spell outside of BM (Spirit beast spell
). But I guess that is what Bandages are for.Hunter - Gearing:
I did not feel a heavy reliance on gear as much as I did on my Fire Mage. Things still died, albeit more slowly, but they still died. I have never felt less powerful as I leveled up the way I did on my mage, and it is definately a good thing.
Questing at 85 felt the same as questing beforehand. Easy.Hunter - Dungeon/Raid:
Hunters have the potential to bring a wide variety of pets. However, most only bring their Wolf/Cats to dungeons or even Raids. A decent Hunter will bring whichever pet the group needs and this is probably the most significant change to a hunters usefulness in a group situation.
In Cata, Survival Hunters have very strong AoE, espiecelly if they put both points in Serpent Spread
(Mostly true in Dungeon Builds, rarely in Raid builds). This combined with Explosive Trap
and its Lock and Load
triggering effect, AoE as a Surv Hunter feels easy and rewarding.
On bosses, Survival Hunters have very little things to keep track of. 1 DoT
is on a fire and forget basis, the other
is on a fairly long CD. The main juggling we have to do is between Explosive Shot
, Cobra Shot
and Arcane Shot
. How a hunter balance those three shots will determine how well they perform in many cases.
In short, I felt like doing decent DPS on a Survival Hunter is relatively simple; it is definitely a strong plus!Conclusion: Hunter vs Mage:
Despite describing Hunters as an easier class to play than Mages, I will probably vote for Mages here. Please note that I have only focused on Fire/Frost Mages, and Survival hunters, I have not played Arcane, MM or BM at all during Cata so it isn't my place to offer any thoughts on those specs.
Mages may be frustrating to play due to our crit mechanism, but as you gear up, the luck is negated by our increasingly more powerful gear and it big crits becomes more and more frequent. I still smile everytime I get a string of 3 Fireball and 2 Pyroblast! crits in a row, leading to a 16-22k Ignite which in turns leads to a huge Combustion!