There's a lively discussion going on in the comments of my post about 2-3 shotting mobs in WoW, even though it's no longer patch day, so it's not like people are just milling around with nothing better to do. :)
I was originally commenting on how various classes fared at soloing non-elite mobs, in particular how a variety of less-squishy classes were actually killing stuff faster than my mage. I hadn't realized that, by focusing down on one specific aspect of the game (which happens to be the one that gets 75% of my gaming time), I had actually stacked the deck AGAINST mages.
It seems crazy to even write that mages are bad at soloing non-elite mobs. Letting every class do enough damage to solo mobs and level as fast as anyone without the need for a group was the one really different thing that Blizzard brought to the AAA MMORPG genre (to the chagrim of many). I mow down non-elites left and right, one at time or all at once in a giant AOE pack. What I hadn't been considering was the finish line. Mages are, by and large, built for sustainable DPS. By contrast, fighting non-elite mobs is a time for burst DPS.
WoW's level 80 solo mobs have 12K hp and a rudimentary AI. Even the worst geared level 80 player has 14-15K HP, an actual person at the keyboard who probably does not want to die, and possibly heals and resilience in a PVP setting. Bosses in 5-mans have at least 300K HP with a variety of abilities that require responses from players, and raid bosses have HP in the millions.
In short, the solo mob is the most trivial target in the game, and there is a design niche for letting players do enough burst DPS to kill a 12K HP mob without necessarily having the sustained DPS to compete on the DPS meters against tougher foes. As Delbin put it, "the mob gets wiped out in a single windfury-shock combo, so you don't notice the DPS drop when you're waiting for stormstrike or windfury to come off cooldown".
The point I raised - killing the mobs in 2-3 hits is a more powerful strategy than using snares to control the mob for long enough to kill it in 4 hits - is true. It just turns out that sustained DPS is actually a group dedicated role. It's a more convenient handicap to have when soloing than being focused on healing or mitigation, but it's not the way you would choose to set the class up if you were focusing just on the solo aspect of the game. It doesn't matter that my sustainability would allow me to mow down dozens of mobs without running out of mana, if I've had to stop and eat after a handful to replenish my HP, anymore than it matters to the raiding DPS Shaman that they have armor and healing in a situation where they shouldn't be getting hit or wasting DPS time on subpar heals.
Of course, that's the challenge of making a game that's well-rounded and expecting the same set of classes to perform in a wide variety of playstyles.