Mages are definitely not shunned in high level groups. Every BRD/BRS/Strat run I have ever done, a Mage was mandatory for success. And they were an additive class as well, so sometimes we had two and that was even better.
As for the armor look on that Paladin, some high level plate stuff has always been like that. I cant say I have seen those pants before, but I have seen a different metal thong and a stocking and garters look before. That chestpiece graphic has been in for a while, and there is another high level one that looks similar, but is gold instead of blue.
I would expect a lot more difficulty finding mages now. Our utility has been devastated by reagents, and simply put, there are no less than 3 other classes that outdamage the "highest DPS class" in the game with ease.
The ONLY thing I like about this patch is taht I enjoy my mid 20s warrior more. Dual wielding actually looked like it did more damage, my defense went up an assload, and the new skills are very cool. If Blizz doesnt seriously consider revamping the reagent system and upping mage DPS, I will be a warrior. I will still enjoy WoW, because the basic system is still very sound, and the item decay on death, while a needless time and money sink that seems to follow the trend of assinine "make the game more like EQ and more work than fun" is not a big enough deal to ruin the game for me.
I will still play it, and still enjoy it, but sweeping core design changes that make a game that trumpeted the "fun" and "casual" aspects of MMORPGs and had me excited for the genre, and takes those changes and basically says: "no, our game needs to be harder [why? cause powergamers got to 60 in 10 days played...thats 240 hours you freaking lunatics!!!!] So, to be harder and "edgier" and to compete with EQ2, they put in timesinks, moneysinks, and funsinks.
Maybe that guy who said not being in the beta is a blessing is correct. You will enjoy a fun, polished game on retail, but my friend, you will never know just how incredibly fun and different
this game almost was. You will never know how close Blizzard was to getting a "casual" MMORPG formula down pat.
I'm not a disgruntled fan. I am a consumer, I am critic (if 7 years of writing about games gets me one thing, its the right to at least critique games without being called a fanboi), and I despise the fact that Blizzard didnt have the balls to stick to their original design document and vision.