It’s a question that crops up with an obscene level of regularity on the mage forums. Look through the archives, and I can guarantee you there are just as many “what race should my mage be?” threads as there are “warlocks are overpowered” threads.
As a blogger, I have to say that you should go with whatever race suits you the best. Me, personally, I think it’s obvious. Troll mages are the best thing ever conceived in the history of everything, with the possible exception of Christopher Walken.
But if you absolutely must know, read on.
Escape Artist – Escape the effects of any immobilization or movement speed reduction effect. Instant cast, 1 minute 45 second cooldown.
This will remove nearly any snare or root. Everything from Crippling Poison to Frost Nova to Hamstring is removed by this racial. However, mechanics wise, this is considered a “dispel” effect, rather than an immunity effect. This means that talents that increase dispel resistance, such as Arcane Subtlety, can and will cause Escape Artist to fail.
Note that it does not remove things that cause a loss of control of your character, like fears and stuns, or daze effects.
This is an excellent racial for PvP, and even has some solid uses for PvE content. Let’s say there’s this mob in Northrend that has an ability call “Really Annoying”. This ability reduces your movement speed by 80%, and deals 100 damage every second for 12 seconds. Using Escape Artist will remove the entire effect, including the DoT.
Expansive Mind – Increases Intellect by 5%,
Very straightforward, simplistic, and an excellent racial, most importantly because it scales very well with gear, especially for arcane mages. There’s a very good reason that, percent wise, gnomes tend to be specced arcane, and this is it.
Handy for PvP as well. Due to the (comparitively) scant amounts of Intellect on PvP gear, this racial helps you maximize what little mana you have.
Arcane Resistance – Reduces the chance you will be hit by Arcane spells by 2%.
Overall, a very negligible amount of resistance and very situational; it only comes into play against mages, some druids, and the very few bosses who throw around arcane damage. It is worth noting, however, that this decrease to hit chance cannot be overcome by hit chance.
Engineering Specialist – 15 point skill bonus to engineering.
If you plan on being an engineer (which I highly recommend) you can’t go wrong with gnomes. Unless you feel that a gnome on a motorcycle is stupid.
Every Man for Himself – Removes all movement impairing effects and all effects that cause a loss of control of your character. Shares a cooldown with similar effects. 2 minute cooldown.
Essentially a PvP trinket as a racial. Note that “cooldown shared” thing. This does not stack with the on use effect from a PvP trinket.
The effectiveness of this racial is currently debatable. It has long been an absolute necessity to have the PvP trinket if you seriously expect to survive in that area of the game, and this racial frees up that trinket slot for something else, such as an extra damage trinket.
The question is, though, can you afford the loss of resilience that comes with replacing the trinket? At level 80, the trinket comes with 84 (0.9%) resilience, which you may very well not be able to afford. It’s too soon to tell; for all we know, there’s going to be new PvP trinkets that have this resilience and some other on use effect, like “transforms you into a beautiful snow angel, causing your opponent to throw candy at you.”
Perception – Increases your passive stealth detection.
This increases your stealth detection by (effectively) one level. In other words, for purposes of stealth detection calculations, your character will be considered one level higher than it actually it is. At 80, for instance, you’ll be a level 81 for these calculations.
While only moderately useful in rare cases in PvE content, it is much more useful in PvP, allowing you to spot stealthed rogues and druids while they’re not close enough to stab you… yet. Note that this doesn’t help in detecting things sneaking up behind you.
Diplomacy – Reputation gains increased 10%.
A very, very handy racial to have. While the idea of grinding for a reputation has been softened as WoW goes on, the fact remains that there are a lot of factions out there, and you are going to have to put a lot of effort into getting those reputation levels up.
Diplomacy significantly lightens the amount of work you need to put into that; by 10%, to be exact.
The Human Spirit - Increases spirit by 3%.
How many times is the Human Spirit going to be nerfed?
Nowhere near as shiny as it’s previous 5% and original 10%, a tiny 3% boost to spirit no longer assists mages very much. Entirely useless for PvP concerns, it’s only use is in raiding, where it aids in extra mana return. Most useful to arcane mages, as this stacks with the 10% extra spirit gained from that tree.
Gift of the Naaru – Heals the target for X damage over 15 seconds. 3 minute cooldown.
A healing ability on a class that otherwise depends entirely on bandages? This is a very useful racial to have. It scales with spellpower (and with attack power, if that value is higher than the spellpower), has a 100% coefficient, and is effected by Amplify/Dampen Magic.
The healing from this ability is calculated with (7+(3*L))*5 + X, where L is equal to your level and X is equal to your (modified) spellpower. For instance, if you are level 80 with 1500 spellpower:
3*80 = 240
(240+7)*5 = 1235
1235 + 1500 = 2735 total healing, or 547 per tick.
Simple, right? Also worth noting that this ability does not cost any mana, and can be both dispelled and countered. OH NOES! COUNTERSPELLED MAH GOTN! NOW MY HOLY TREE IS LOCKED OUT! Seriously though, interrupting this on a priest or paladin locks out their holy tree.
An interesting trick with this is to cast it, then immediately move into Ice Block. It can save your life. Also note that this racial does not lose casting time from taking damage. Oh, patch 3.0, is there anything you didn’t change?
Heroic Presence – Increases the chance to hit with all abilities for you and all party members within 30 yards by 1%.
I was very disappointed that this did not go raid wide like pretty much everything else. Oh well. Nonetheless, a very good racial to have. At the very least, you can skimp on a full percentage of hit, allowing you to have additional stats elsewhere. And your whole party to boot, if you’re reliable enough to show up often enough for them to be able to afford dropping 1% of their hit from their gear.
Gemcutting – 5 point skill bonus to Jewelcrafting.
Not nearly as useful as, say, the gnome racial, but still useful if you plan on being a jewelcrafter.
Shadow Resistance – Reduces the chance you will be hit by shadow spells.
Ha ha! Take that, warlocks! And shadow priests, I guess!
Once again, this reduction in hit cannot be made up for with extra spell hit on gear.
Undead (or Forsaken, if that’s how you roll)
Will of the Forsaken – Removes any Charm, Sleep or Fear effect. 2 minute cooldown.
Very handy to have for PvP situations, as it does not share a cooldown with the standard PvP trinkets. Note that this does not work against anything that isn’t specifically mentioned. Death Coil, Polymorph, Blind… none of those.
Cannibalize – When activated, regenerates 40% of your health over ten seconds. Only works on humanoid or undead corpses. Any movement, action, or damage taken will cancel the effect. 2 minute cooldown.
Another very handy ability for PvP situations. Essentially the same as a bandage, but replacing the need for a bandage with the corpse of an enemy… or ally. Also, it scales with your HP, unlike bandages.
Underwater Breathing – Underwater breath lasts 233% longer than normal.
There aren’t a lot of quests that require you to go underwater for extended periods of time. The ones that do are either never done on an Undead character, or conveniently provide something that allows you to breathe underwater. At the very least, you could fetch Hydrocane from Gnomeregan.
Shadow Resistance – Reduces the chance you will be hit by shadow spells by 2%.
Again, hit cannot overcome this resistance.
Berserking - Increases attack and casting speed for 10 seconds. Speed is raised by 10% at maximum health, increasing as health is lost to a maximum of 30%. 3 minute cooldown.
Mathematically, one of the absolute best racials for a raiding mage. This effect stacks with any other haste effect. For instance, this, Icy Veins, and Bloodlust can all stack together for a truly massive boost in casting speed.
What bonus you get from this is calculated when you activate it. For instance, if you have 35% health and activate it, you will gain the 30% casting speed boost for the whole duration. Being healed / taking additional damage does not change the speed.
Regeneration – Increases health regeneration by 10%, and allows 10% of normal health regen in combat.
Health regeneration is very small. It is dependent upon spirit, and so this really only benefits priests and mages. Let’s take me.
I have 212 spirit. This results in what is roughly 21.5 health regenerated every two seconds. Sometimes I get 21 health back, sometimes 22.
In combat health regeneration, then, is 2 health every 2 seconds. Yay.
Beast Slaying – Increases damage dealt to beasts by 5%.
Arguably the most underrated racial in the game. This is incredibly powerful against any beast analogue opponent. While largely pointless in PvP, it is a phenomenal leveling racial.
Da Voodoo Shuffle – Reduces the duration of all movement impairing effects by 15%. Trolls be flippin’ out, mon!
A very strong racial in PvP, as this neatly counters pretty much everything. Frostbolt, crippling poison, even that judgment paladins have that make you go slower.
Arcane Torrent – Silences all enemies within 8 yards for 2 seconds. In addition, you gain 6% of total mana. 2 minute cooldown.
A fairly strong PvP ability. It is weaker for mages as a class; mages should be striving to be much further than 8 yards away from their opponents. It also has some use in solo play against caster mobs, though again, mages shouldn’t be any where near the 8 yard distance.
Arcane Affinity – 10 point skill bonus to enchanting.
Yay enchanting! Obviously useless if you aren’t going to be an enchanter.
Magic Resistance – Reduces the chance you will be hit by spells by 2%.
The best racial of it’s kind. Rather than being resistance versus a specific element of spells, it gives resistance against ALL spells. Definitely useful for PvP as, once again, spell hit cannot overcome this.
Gnome mage: kenvas
Human mage: Icewind Dale artwork at rpgfan.com
Cone Mage: Unknown. Presumed photo shop by some guy.
Forsaken mage: Raphael at Deviantart (link not available).
Che Troll: Unknown
Blood elf cheerleaders: Unknown. Found via Flickr.