TBC Mage Guide

  • Author:
  • Source:
  • Frozance
  • WoW-One

Mages, as a class, tend to have a distinctly unique amount of useless misinformation left fallow among messages boards both old and new. Here I hope to dispel some of those rumors and teach you how to be the best mage you can be, even if you’ve never even played mage at all.

You’ll notice that despite that claim, this is a fire mage compendium. This is intentional. As a whole, fire is the most versatile and reliable of the three mages specs, and tends to do the most overall damage throughout all gear levels. There are specific gear sets and group compositions in which another spec will grant you more damage- the most well known of these is Arcane. Please see the FAQ for full explanations of when that is, and more importantly why that is.

Let’s get started.

Contents

  • 1 Spells and Abilities
    • 1.1 General Mechanics
    • 1.2 Spell Casting Mechanics
    • 1.3 Basic Spell Overview
    • 1.4 Spelling with Numbers
  • 2 Talents
    • 2.1 Standard Specs
    • 2.2 In-Depth Examinations
  • 3 Spell Rotations
    • 3.1 Basic Rotation
    • 3.2 AoE Rotation
    • 3.3 Multiple Mages Rotation
    • 3.4 Fireblast: Dos and Don’ts
    • 3.5 Burst Windows and Cooldowns
  • 4 Gearing Your Fire Mage
    • 4.1 Stat Overview
    • 4.2 Vontre’s Equivalence Point Values
    • 4.3 Enchants
    • 4.4 Gems
    • 4.5 Consumables
    • 4.6 Upgrade Lists
  • 5 Buffs and Your Raid Group
    • 5.1 Which Armor to Use?
    • 5.2 Amplify/Dampen Magic
    • 5.3 Buff Synergies
  • 6 Raid Overviews, Tips, and Tricks
    • 6.1 Gruul’s Lair
  • 7 Macros
  • 8 Tools
    • 8.1 Vontre’s Mage DPS Spreadsheet
  • 9 FAQ

1. Spells and Abilities

1.1 General Mechanics

The general mechanics of a fire mage are quite simple- find a (safe) place to stand and start firing upon your enemy. However, there are some small ways you can improve both your damage and your general usefulness to the raid, some of which aren’t even specific to the mage class itself. That’s where we’ll start.

Global Cooldown
Global Cooldown is a mechanic WoW uses to standardize the number of available actions a player can take in a timespan to prevent ping, macros, or bots to gain an unfair advantage. Every time you perform an action on the GCD, you will be prevented doing anything that is also a GCD-inducing action for 1.5s. There are very few spells that are off the GCD, and fairly all of them are self-buffs. Everything else is subject to this 1.5s mini-cooldown every time you do an action.

This 1.5s CD can be reduced with haste. Since we’re a mage, we’re going to concern ourselves with spell haste. Spell haste only reduces GCD when used with a spell. 50% spell haste is required to max out the GCD reduction at 1.0s, this is 788 spell haste. For obvious reasons, this is not a viable stat to reach for, nor does it particularly benefit us. This is because most of our spells have cast times that are longer or equal to the GCD. Aside from instant cases like fire blast, no spell we use is GCD-capped. Combustion, Icy Veins, Presence of Mind, and Arcane Power are off the GCD entirely, as are your trinkets.

A neat trick to keep in mind is that, while you are casting or channeling, you incur no GCD in combat for swapping weapons. You can use this to cast evocate, and swap to a weapon with large amounts of intellect to boost your return. Please note that Feenix is currently bugged and does not allow weapon swaps during channeling. I will update this once it’s correctly allowed.

Aggro
The second concept is one that you will quite literally live and die by. Aggro as a non-tanking class is very simple. You don’t want it. Whoever has aggro is the person the boss is trying to kill, and will be referred to herein as the tank, for simplicity. Every monster has a table that keeps track of people hitting it, and how much ‘threat’ they have. Typically your spells cause one point of threat per point of damage done to the boss, subject to modifiers.

There are a couple of ways that aggro can change. The first and most obvious is that the tank can taunt it, which instantly sets the tank’s threat equal to the player with aggro and forces the monster to keep aggro on the taunter for a few seconds. The idea is that the tank uses these few ‘safe’ seconds to extend a threat lead, even if someone hits the monster directly after the taunt.

The next way is that you pull the monster. The key point here is that the person the monster attacks is not necessarily the highest threat player. In fact, as a ranged character, you need to have 130% or more of the tank’s threat, and then you need to ‘alert’ the monster that you have >130% threat. Hitting the monster will alert it. If circumstances conspire to put you in melee range, it only requires 110%, so make sure you don’t run into melee and hit/alert the monster while over 110%- this becomes important during times where you need to do bursts of area of effect (AoE) damage, since many of the mage’s AoE spells are centered upon himself.

I should point you back to how taunt works- it gives the tank instant aggro and threat equal to the person who had aggro. It doe not give them threat equal to the highest threat player on the table, and it does not give him 110% or 130% of that threat. The tank taunting does not mean you are safe. Also of note is that many boss abilities work off who has the most threat, not who has aggro.

The third and fourth ways are similar- the tank has an invalid amount of threat. These are the most dangerous situations, since it completely bypasses the 110/130% rule. An example of this is the death or CC of the tank, a threat wipe or threat drop on the tank (feign death, invisibility, fade, boss ability), and finally being unable to attack the tank (i.e. the monster is rooted in place or is silenced and can no longer attack at range). The monster will immediately swap targets to the person with the highest threat that it can currently attack.

Watch your threat at all times. Pulling aggro on a boss likely means you, and you alone, have just wiped the raid. Even if you tanks manage to save the raid from your mistake, dead mages do no DPS.

Unless you’re an undead, but at that point you’re just being cheeky.

Spell Casting Mechanics

Spell Queue
Depending on how much you play mage, you may notice that when you’re at the end of casting a spell, you can cast a second spell, or even move around and run, before you finish casting. Against logic, the spell will finish casting, and if you used another spell it will automatically go off as well! This is called spell queuing, and it’s the base of nearly everything you do.

When you cast a spell, it’s not your client that actually counts out the cast time, it’s the server. The basic sequence of events when you cast a spell is thus:
Your client sends a message to the server requesting a spell cast.
If the server says you are in a state to begin a spell cast, it starts counting up and sends a message to your client that you are casting.
Your client receives this message and locks you out of actions.
Eventually, the server finishes counting down. It casts the spell and sends your client a message saying the spell has been cast.
What this means is that your cast bar is slightly off, and you can end your spell early- the server can’t cancel a spell it has already cast.

Since 2.3, the client no longer refuses to send cast request messages while another spell is casting, which takes a lot of mechanical precision out of manually ending your spellcasts. This does not mean that it will automatically queue another spell up for the server to autocast- you must still send cast requests before your client thinks you are finished casting, but after the server declares you are finished. For this reason, the addon Quartz is recommended so that you know exactly when the server finishes casting your spell so you can start your new spell. Another option is mashing the button really fast, but on retail this could cause issues with getting locked into a GCD rotation with nothing casting while using Scorch and instant cast spells. I’m not sure yet if this issue is on Feenix or not. If you run into it while mashing, please tell me.

Pushback
When your health physically drops as a result of direct damage, the spell you are currently casting is subject to pushback. Pushback increases the length of time it takes to cast your spell, and is very predictable.

For a spell with a cast time, the first hit you take while casting that spell increases your cast time by a max of 1.0s. The second hit 0.8s, the third 0.6s, then 0.4 and finally 0.2s. If you are hit more than five times in a single spell cast, you are immune to pushback. Pushback is determined on a per-spell basis. You cannot be pushed back more than the spells total cast time; e.g. if you are 0.1s into casting a fireball and you receive a hit, your cast time will go to 3.0s, not 3.9s.

Channeled spells, like Evocation, work a little differently. Each instance of pushback will remove from your channel half the channel time left. Since Evocation ticks every 2 seconds over an 8 second channel, this means that you can actually lose more or less than half the channeled time left depending on when you get pushback.

DoT damage does not cause pushback. Damage that is (fully) shielded or absorbed does not cause pushback. You cannot be effected by pushback during the effects of Icy Veins.

Five Second Rule
The five second rule determines your mana regeneration. It states that you are considered ‘casting’ for five seconds after a mana expenditure. While you are considered casting, you regenerate mana according to your ‘Mana Regenerated While Casting’ in your paper doll- outside the 5 seconds, you regenerate mana at a full rate. Things like Mage Armor, which give 30% of your non-casting regen during casting, simply restore a portion of your full rate.

Keep in mind that the five second rule is only activated on mana expenditure. Clearcasting will not put you within the five seconds, and cancelling a fireball cast before it finishes means you do not disrupt your mana regen. You can combine spells that cost mana up front (e.g. Arcane Missiles) with a spell that has a cast time and breach the five second rule for a small amount of extra regen.

Mana regen ticks every 2 seconds, and your mana regen is prorated over that two seconds if your regen changes.

AoE Spell Damage Cap
Most AoE spells have a damage cap, an amount that is the maximum non-crit non-modified damage that the AoE can do per cast. For the purposes of damage caps, modifiers, even crit, does not count towards the cap in any way- they are effectively free damage.

Let’s take the example of Arcane Explosion, with a base damage of 1000 and its its cap of 10,100. With 10 mobs, you would hit each for 1,000, totaling 10,000 damage. You do full damage. With 15 mobs, you would hit each for 1,000, totaling 15,000 damage. This is over the cap, so you only do (10,100 / 15,000) * 1,000 = 673.33 damage to each.

Let’s say the mage gods smile upon you, and you crit each one of these 15 mobs. You would hit each for 1,500 damage, totaling 22,500 damage. This is over the cap, but you still do 1,009 damage to each (instead of the aforementioned 673.33), since crits are considered non-capped bonus damage. Extra damage gained from modifiers like Curse of Elements, Molten Fury, and Playing With Fire also count as free damage.

1.3 Basic Spell Overview

Fireball: Fireball is the bread and butter spell of the fire mage. Get used to casting this often and constantly. This spell has a base 3.5 (3.0s with talents) second casting time, and applies considerable direct damage and a mostly pointless Damage Over Time (DoT) debuff to your target. Keep in mind that the DoT will break cc, and it will take up one slot of a monster’s 40-debuff limit. This spell has a relatively slow travel time that you can abuse- at max range you can have nearly half of another fireball cast before the first one even hits. This spell takes a moderate amount of mana.

Fireblast: This is an instant cast, 8 second cooldown untalented direct damage spell. It has a higher base damage than fireball, but scales worse with your spellpower. It also has a similar mana cost, but takes only half the time to ‘cast’ due to the 1.5s Global Cooldown, so it is considered to be a higher mana cost skill, since it uses more mana per second. You can queue into a Fireblast, but because its only cooldown is the GCD, you cannot queue any spell after it.

Ignite: Ignite is actually a passive talent that you spec into when you become a fire mage, but it’s a core point of the fire mage identity. When a spell in World of Warcraft crits, it typically does 150% of the spell’s original damage instead of the 200% that melee abilities get. What ignite does is takes 40% of your crit’s damage and applies it as a DoT over 4 seconds. Since 40% of the 150% damage is 60%, this means your crits actually cause 150%+60%=210% of the base damage! Even more importantly, ignite typically double dips any and all damage increasing buffs and talents- the buff will increase the original spell’s damage, increasing the ignite damage… but the buff will also increase the damage of ignite itself.

Scorch: Scorch is a base 1.5s direct damage spell that does roughly 45% of fireball’s damage, and takes a third of the mana. Two scorches can be cast in the time of one fireball for roughly 90% of the damage but 84% of the mana. The real use of scorch is the secondary effect applied when you spec into Improved Scorch- each cast of scorch increases the target’s vulnerability to fire damage by 3%, stacking up to five times. Consider this a 15% buff to your overall damage at the cost of having to occasionally cast scorch. Because this spell has a 1.5s cast time, you can queue a spell after it without incurring GCD. Scorch is a prime example of Ignite double dipping- the original crit’s damage was increased by 15%, but the ignite formed from that spell is also boosted by 15%.

Pyroblast: This is fireball’s somewhat witless older brother. There is never a situation in which you should use pyroblast. It is a base 6.0s cast spell with a slightly higher mana cost than fireball. Unfortunately, two fireballs cast in the same amount of time do more damage than pyroblast. Although it may seem tempting, do not start a fight with pyroblast in an attempt to get around the lengthy cast time- you will very likely pull aggro or screw the pull up.

1.4 Spelling With Numbers

All numbers are level 70 base, before talents.
SPC = Coefficient for Damage from Spellpower, NB= Non-Binary Spell, DC = AoE Damage Cap.

               Spell   Cast Time    Min    Max    Mean   Mana   DoT  Duration     SPC  Talented SPC     DoT SPC   Notes 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Arcane Explosion 8     Instant    377    407    392    545    N/A      N/A    74.1%         74.1%         N/A   NB, 10100 DC
         Fireball 13   3.5s (3)s    649    821    735    465     84     8.0s     100%          115%          0%   NB
            Scorch 9        1.5s    305    361    333    180    N/A      N/A    42.8%         42.8%         N/A   NB
       Flamestrike 6        3.0s    375    460    417    990    340     8.0s    23.6%         23.6%   .03%/tick   NB, Initial hit 7830 DC, DoT is not subject to or included in cap.
       Flamestrike 7        3.0s    480    585    532   1175    424     8.0s    23.6%         23.6%   .03%/tick   NB, Initial hit 7830 DC, DoT is not subject to or included in cap.
        Fire Blast 9     Instant    664    786    725    471    N/A      N/A    42.8%         42.8%         N/A   NB
    Dragons Breath 4     Instant    680    790    735    700    N/A      N/A   13.57%        13.57%         N/A   Binary, 10100 DC
        Blast Wave 8     Instant    616    724    670    645    N/A      N/A   13.57%        13.57%         N/A   Binary, 9440 DC
Conjure Mana Emerald        3.0s   2340   2460   2520   1670    N/A      N/A      N/A           N/A         N/A   Min/max return of mana on use. 3 charges (7560 average mana return)
               Stat     Conversion     Notes
   Mana Regen Per 5            N/A     Mana Regen = 5 * sqrt(Intellect) * Spirit * 0.009327
Crit From Intellect     80.0 => 1%     Mages have .91% crit by default.
  Spell Crit Rating     22.1 => 1%
       Spell Crit %            N/A     Spell Crit % = (Intellect / 80.0) + .91 + (Crit Rating / 22.1)
   Spell Hit Rating     12.6 => 1%     Spell hit cap is 16% before modifiers. That is 202 hit rating. 164 hit rating is the cap with 3/3 Elemental Precision
 Spell Haste Rating    15.75 => 1%     Cast time of a spell divided by the 1 plus the percentage of your haste in decimal is how long a spell takes to cast.
                                       E.G. the talented cast time of fireball with 23% haste would be 3.0s/1.23 = 2.4s

2. Talents

2.1 Standard Specs

0/44/3+14
0/44/3+14

This is the base spec for fire. Nearly every fire spec is based off having these 44 talents, and then spending your remaining 14 points.

There are two ‘standard’ fire specs that branch off from this, the Clearcasting build, and the Icy Veins build.

10/44/3+4 Clearcasting

10/44/3+4

This is your spec of choice until you get some gear. The basic rule of thumb is that you should use this until you have enough gear to not run out of mana on boss fights with Icy Veins. You can move the filler points in the arcane tree around, see In-Depth Examinations to see what you’ll want to choose there. The points included are the ones most typically given. This spec leaves you with 4 points you can spend on AoE talents, see the AoE Section for more information.

0/43/11+6 Icy Veins

0/44/11+5

This is the best straight damage spec, but it guzzles mana like a early model Hummer. Like with the last spec, you have options in your secondary tree. Finally, you have 6 points to spend on AoE. See In-Depth Examinations for which talents are best in your specific situation, as well as the AoE section for which AoE talents you should pick.

0/40/21 Archimonde Spec
Archimonde Spec

This spec is for situations, like Archimonde, where staying alive is more important than getting that last 20% or so of your damage. Allows access to double Ice Block through Cold Snap. The ability to double Icy Veins prevents the damage reduction from being too catastrophic.

Alternative Specs
I’ve not yet verified the usefulness of these, but I was given this as a resource as a reference for a bunch of mage builds.

2.2 In-Depth Examinations of Options

We’ll be looking at these talents from a deep fire perspective, so we’ll not go very far into the Arcane and Frost trees, nor spend an inordinate amount of time examining the talents besides the important ones in those trees.

Arcane Talents

0/2 Arcane Subtlety: Two points in this talent are traditionally allocated in most spec builds, since it’s part of the standard Elitist Jerks deep fire build. The use of this talent is situational, however. The first use is for reducing raid boss resistances against bosses that have more than the baseline magic resistance, such as Supremus. It, like all magic penetration, does nothing against the baseline magic resist bosses have that grant them a 1% chance to resist your spells when hit capped. The second, more important, use, is that it will reduce the threat on your Arcane Explosion by 40%, which allows you to use it earlier in a pull and have little chance of pulling aggro. While Arcane Explosion spam is the third highest sustained DPS rotation, and has the worst MPS, it is by far the safest AoE spell a mage has with this talent, with very close to no danger of pulling aggro and dying. For this reason, this talent should be valued.

0/5 Arcane Focus: Primarily of use against Krosh Firehand, this increases the hit chance of your arcane spells by 10% fully talented, reducing your hit cap to 6%. As a fire mage, the only arcane spells you typically use are Arcane Explosion, Spellsteal, Counterspell, and Polymorph. A preferred tier 1 option for dumping points in if you need to get to the second tier of the Arcane tree, as it will help your arcane explosion reach hit cap, and your spellsteal while in your (likely low-hit) Krosh Firehand tanking gear. Put no more than three points in it- the other two should go in Arcane Subtlety.

0/5 Improved Arcane Missiles: Filler talent only to get to tier 2 of the Arcane Tree. Not recommended.

0/2 Wand Specialization: Filler talent only to get to tier 3 of the Arcane Tree. Not recommended.

0/5 Magic Absorption: A nice spell, but we don’t have the spare talent points for it. Not recommended.

0/5 Clearcasting: This is the only spell your should care about in Arcane Tree’s tier 2. Immensely useful if you’re having mana problems, this is likely the deepest you should go into the Arcane tree. Once you reach low tier-4 levels of gear, you should no longer need to go this deep into the Arcane tree. Never attempt to alter your rotation based on whether you have a clearcasting proc- it is always a DPS loss.

The rest of the talents: There are some good talents scattered within the Arcane tree, but you’ll never go farther into the Arcane tree because of how powerful most of the Fire talents are.

Fire Talents

0/5 Improved Fireball: This talent is a cornerstone of your fire build. There is never a situation where you should not have this talent as a fire mage.

0/5 Impact: Reasonably good for leveling, nearly every monster you’ll be fighting in a raid is immune to this. The few that aren’t, we can leave to people who have a stun as a baseline part of their class. No reason to grab this.

0/5 Ignite: Most spell damage specs in TBC have some sort of ability that allows for spell damage to crit for around 200% of the original strike instead of 150%. Ignite is the mage version of this. One thing to remember is that on a properly-coded server, Ignite ‘rolls.’ That is, if you crit and apply an ignite, and then crit again before the first Ignite has finished, the new ignite does not replace the old ignite- instead, it is added to the first ignite and resets it’s duration.

0/2 Flame Throwing: Increases the distance you can fight at. Useful as it gives you more options in fights with positional requirements, and lets you stay just out of range of most boss AoE.

0/3 Improved Fire Blast: Fire Blast, while a small DPS increase, reduces your positional options, doesn’t scale with haste, and is prohibitively mana hungry. This talent just makes it a slightly larger DPS boost for a large mana cost increase. Not worth getting- if you want to play at managing mana expenditure for extra damage, Arcane does it much better.

0/2 Incinerate: The increase in Fire Blast damage isn’t very useful, but 2% crit on scorch is fairly nice- you’ll be casting scorch a fair amount. There aren’t a lot of good options this low in the fire tree- most of the really strong stuff is at the top, and this is a good talent to put points in to get there.

0/3 Improved Flamestrike: Please see the AoE section on a more detailed rundown on AoE abilities.

0/1 Pyroblast: The only reason to get this talent is if you’re getting Blast Wave. See the AoE section to see if your use case is right for Blast Wave.

0/2 Burning Soul: A crucial talent- mages put out a lot of threat, and this helps with that. It also gives you spell pushback resistance, which is something a lot of people tend to take for granted. Go play an elemental shaman for a little bit- you’ll gain a considerable appreciation for pushback resistance.

0/3 Improved Scorch: This is a 15% buff to ALL your damage. You should be grabbing this.

0/2 Molten Shields: Not particularly useful, though the spell reflection on Fire Ward can be abused on Krosh Firehand. If you’re having trouble mage tanking Krosh, consider this talent.

0/3 Master of Elements: This talent is core and allows you to keep casting significantly longer. Scales quite well with gear.

0/3 Playing with Fire: It seems like this talent may be a tradeoff, but for as little as you’re going to get hit in a raid, this will be a boost all around. It’s not really even more damage for healers to heal, the extra damage taken mostly just ends up lowering their overhealing.

0/3 Critical Mass: We like crit. This gives a lot of crit. No brainer.

0/1 Blast Wave: As always, please see the AoE section.

0/2 Blazing Speed: This is a PvP talent. Don’t bother with it for raiding.

0/5 Fire Power: 10% increase to your damage, applied passively. What’s not to like?

0/3 Pyromaniac: More free crit and a little less mana expenditure. Not as fantastically nice as some of the other deep fire talents, but still very solid all around.

0/1 Combustion: Prevents RNG from ever messing up your cooldown usage. Has some special conditions on it’s use, see the Cooldowns section for more information.

0/2 Molten Fury: Allows mages to have an execute phase. This talent is so strong we actually consider this to be a cooldown that you should try to time your other cooldowns with it.

0/5 Empowered Fireball: Allows your fireball to scale even more with gear. Nice bit of extra damage to your main spell.

0/1 Dragon’s Breath: Once again, see the AoE section.

Frost Talents

0/3 Elemental Precision: This talent is mandatory. Max it out. This gives you +3% spell hit to frost and fire spells, which is 37.8 +hit rating. The only time you should ever not grab this talent is when you’re over the hit cap even with no gems, in which case you should probably look at changing your gear (Hint: Are you still wearing the Scryer trinket? Swap it for something better.) On retail, this talent used to give +2/4/6% hit to frost spells, and a bug persisted through most of BC where Frost spells would still gain that double hit%, even as fire gained the proper hit%. This is the ‘ghost hit’ you may see some talk about. As of 7/19/15, Feenix does not have ghost hit. I’m unsure if they’ll be adding it for a realistic TBC experience at any point.

0/2 Frost Warding: A filler talent.

0/5 Improved Frostbolt: Another filler talent. Best to put some points here tier 1, at least you can throw a frostbolt at a boss if you get fire locked for some reason. Even though you only need 2 points in it to get to tier 2, keep it in mind as a place for dumping talent points to move down the frost tree.

0/5 Ice Shards: Filler talent. You shouldn’t be using frost spells that can crit.

0/3 Frostbite: Filler talent, not recommended. You will never use most spells that could proc this, and in situations where you are (blizzard kiting), you hardly want to root an
enemy. Don’t get under any circumstance.

0/2 Improved Frost Nova: The best filler talent in Tier 2. if you need to progress down the tier to pick up Icy Veins, there’s really no reason not to get this.

0/3 Permafrost: Filler talent. Mostly pointless unless you also grab Improved Blizzard in the next tier.

0/3 Piercing Ice: This would be a great talent if we actually used frost spells. We don’t, never grab this.

0/1 Icy Veins: Haste is our most important stat once we’re hit capped, and this spell gives us a whole heaping load of it on demand. If you have no haste, this spell alone will drop your fireball to a 2.5s cast. Never forget that it also gives you 100% interruption to casting! if you have the mana supply to keep it up, this is a must-have talent.

0/3 Improved Blizzard: Conditionally useful if you need to kite a large amount of monsters. The number of points you put in this talent is deceptive. This is because in World of Warcraft, a stronger slow will remove and replace a weaker slow. This idea of ‘weaker’ and ‘stronger’ does not take in to account debuff duration. The Chill effect lasts for 1 second untalented, so you may be overwriting a long duration hamstring with a 1 second slow that is only reapplied while in the aoe target! 3/3 Permafrost allows Chill to last for 4 seconds which is something to keep in mind if your raid needs aoe slows, in Hyjal for example. As for Improved Blizzard itself, 1/3 will behave as expected. 2/3 puts it on the level of the strongest slow debuffs in the game- it will overwrite them, but it can also be overwritten by them. Of particular interest to the average mage is the 2/3 Improved Blizzard shares the same -50% speed debuff as Cone of Cold, though Cone of Cold’s actual slow debuff lasts many times longer. Finally, 3/3 could be considered suboptimal- at -65% speed, it is the strongest slow in the game, but it lasts for an exceptionally short time and completely prevents any other slows from being applied to the enemy.

0/2 Arctic Reach: We don’t use frostbolt or blizzard enough for this to matter. Filler talent, not recommended.

0/3 Frost Channeling: We don’t use offensive frost spells, so less threat on them is pointless. 15% less mana cost on ice block, frost nova, Icy Veins, and cone of cold makes this the most useful filler talent of this tier, however.

0/5 Shatter: We don’t use frost spells that crit. Not recommended.

0/1 Cold Snap: This is the only reason you would go so far into the frost tree, and it’s so you can Ice Block twice on Archimonde (Archimonde requiring you to live more than it requires you to DPS) Take it if you need to, if not, you should have stopped in the frost tree back at Icy Veins.

The rest of the talents: If you want to go deeper into frost, you should probably just spec frost.

3. Spell Rotations

3.1 Basic Rotations

The basic fire rotation is to start the fight with 5x Scorch on anything that lives for longer than 15-20 seconds to gain +15% fire damage to the monster. From there, you cast as many fireballs as you can without ever letting scorch’s debuff drop. This typically manifests itself as a Fireball x 7-8, Scorch x 1 and repeat rotation. Realistically, due to lag, fight movement and the 1% chance you will always have to be resisted, you want to cast 7 or less fireballs unless it’s a tank and spank and your ping is excellent. The more fireballs you weave between scorch, the better your DPS, but letting scorch drop off is catastrophic to your DPS. If you have less than hit cap or bad latency, 6-7 or less fireballs is recommended.

You’ll notice I tend not to recommend 9 fireball/scorch. This is because the scorch debuff lasts 30 seconds, and fireball takes three seconds to cast. 9 fireballs is 27 seconds of casting, and scorch takes that yo 28.5s. You will finish your scorch cast in this rotation with 1.5s left on your scorch debuff- and since you always have a 1% chance to miss a spell, if you miss this scorch it’s physically impossible to react fast enough, through ping, to scorch once more.

Haste, along with major buffs like Heroism/Bloodlust and Icy Veins, alter these numbers. Try to time your scorch so you have about (scorch’s cast time) * 3 time left on your Fire Vulnerability debuff.

3.2 Aoe Rotation

There are 6 main spells a fire mage has in his AoE pocket- Blizzard, Flamestrike Rank 7, Flamestrike Rank 6, Arcane Explosion, Blast Wave, and Dragon’s Breath.

Blizzard has the worst base damage and scaling of all of your AoE spells, and should typically only be used for the utility of the slow if you specced into it. Don’t, however, discount blizzard- this slow is extremely strong. So strong, in fact, that you should be careful with it. The blizzard slow only lasts 4.5s, and 2 points in it will cause it to overwrite long lasting, strong slows like Cone of Cold and Crippling Poison. 3 points in it will actually prevent any other kind of slow from being applied, as it would be considered the ‘superior debuff’ even though it lasts a very short time. Make sure your group is aware of this ‘slow lockout’ depending on your group’s needs and the number of points you have in Improved Blizzard.

For dealing raw burst damage, the three instant cast spells reign supreme. Blast Wave and Dragon’s Breath lead the pack with exceptionally high base damage and reasonable scaling. This is hampered by their incredibly high mana cost and long cooldowns that prevent being spammed. Arcane Explosion, a similar mana hog, has lower base damage but a higher scaling. The spells allow for very high AoE damage in a short burst. Keep in mind that Arcane explosion has a -40% threat modifier from 2/2 Arcane Subtlety. This means that you can start AoE much sooner and safer, if you have the mana to keep it up.

The final AoE spell is Flamestrike. Flamestrike is unusual to use because it deals a moderate amount of AoE direct damage upon cast, and then ticks for more damage afterwards. Flamestrike’s DoT does not stack with itself, and since Flamestrike ticks every 2 seconds, it means spamming Flamestrike will only give you the initial hit and one tick of the dot before being overwritten.

Multiple ranks of Flamestrike, however, do stack. Alternating Rank 7 and Rank 6 awards 3 ticks of each DoT per salvo, at a significantly better damage per mana than any other AoE spell mentioned thus far. Its damage per second is on par/better than spamming Arcane Explosion depending on your spellpower, but at nearly twice the threat per second.

A delayed rotation consisting of casting Rank 7, Rank 6, and then waiting 2 seconds allows 4 ticks of each DoT. The damage per mana spikes here, since you invoke two mana regen ticks from the five second rule, at a reasonable loss in DPS that is still superior to spamming Rank 7 alone.

Keep in mind that Flamestrike has a damage cap of 7830, while Arcane Explosion has a cap of 10100. This should influence your choice of AoE spell at sufficient mob or spellpower numbers.

The key with AoE situations is determining how much mana you have available to AoE- you can almost always trade your mana for more AoE damage. From there, it’s simply figuring out how safe you are on the threat meters.

3.3 Multiple Mages Rotations

When multiple mages are within your group, it often pays to set up scorching duties. Typically and most easily one character is deemed the scorcher, but that isn’t the most efficient use of scorch. There is a threshold a mob must live past for scorching to be worth it.The faster your group gets the scorch buff established, the faster everyone in your raid is doing full damage. It’s within everyone’s best interest to toss a scorch in.

Scorch has a 1.5s cast time, fireball has a 3s cast time, and we know a fireball does roughly 239% of a scorch’s damage. We’re ignoring actual damage (since we’re working in relative numbers) and haste (since you typically can’t do on the fly haste rating to cast time conversions for multiple mages every pull).

Scorch DPS:     1/1.5        = 0.66667 
Fireball DPS:   2.39 / 3     = 0.79667
FB With Scorch: 0.79667*1.15 = 0.91617

Scorch Ramps Damage and times.
1 Mage:   1 + 1.03 + 1.06 + 1.09 + 1.12 = 5.30 damage in 7.5s
2 Mages:  1 + 1.06 + 1.12               = 3.18 damage in 4.5s
3 Mages:  1 + 1.09                      = 2.09 damage in 3.0s
4 Mages:  1 + 1.12                      = 2.12 damage in 3.0s
5 Mages:  1                             = 1.00 damage in 1.5s

Formula:
[Scorch Ramp Damage] + .91617(x - [scorch ramp time]) = .0.79667x

where x = # seconds on mob.


How Long Should a Mob Live to Make Scorching Worth It?
1 Mage:   13.14s
2 Mages:   7.89s
3 Mages:   5.51s
4 Mages:   5.26s
5 Mages:   3.13s

Maintaining the scorch debuff can also cause issues. Losing a scorch stack is non-trivial to a single mage, losing a scorch stack when so much of your raid’s DPS is invested in it is even worse. A good general rule of thumb is that if you have multiple mages, have at least 2 of them cast scorch every 8-9 fireballs, or even every mage casting scorch every 8-9 fireballs. The DPS loss of the extra scorches is negligible compared to the DPS loss a lost scorch stack would cause. Remember, even at spell hit cap, you always have a 1% chance to be fully resisted. Obviously, if someone jumps the gun and refreshes it early, then you can restart your count. Think about what may have caused them to refresh early, however- is a boss event involving movement or pushback coming up? You may want to scorch a bit early as well.

3.4 Fireblast: Dos and Don’ts

In specific situations, Fireblast use can be a DPS increase in your standard rotation. The first and most obvious is that you use fireblast to finish a monster off. Fireball has a slow travel time, so use of scorch and fireblast to finish a monster off that might die before fireball hits is always beneficial. Molten Fury is one of our strongest power spikes in a fight, and we should strive to pack as much damage into that spike as we can.

Another situation is movement- as an instant cast, fireblast allows you to cast while moving. Movement is still a DPS loss overall, but fireblast can mitigate that to a certain extent, as movement is typically necessary to avoid being killed in raids.

Finally, there is the age-old debate as to where fireblast has a place in your standard scorch/fireballx8 rotation. Fireblast has a slightly higher base damage than fireball, poorer scaling with spell power, a similar mana cost, and can be used in half the time (1.5s due to GCD compared to Fireball’s 3.0s cast.). The standard rule of thumb is that if you have little enough spellpower that fireblast does more than 1.5s/(cast time of fireball with haste) percent of fireball’s damage, it could be considered a DPS increase to use fireblast on CD. Keep in mind this will alter your rotation for keeping scorch up, and that fireblasting on CD will use an immense amount of mana- fireblast has less than half the damage per mana of fireball. If you have the mana supply to keep it up it is a damage increase. The counterargument to this is that in real gameplay, fireblast uses entirely too much mana during a long fight, and more crucially it adds a positioning requirement to the fight, since fireblast has 15 yards less range than a fireball. In nearly every situation, it is not worth the added hassle and mana requirements to fireblast on cooldown as part of your rotation.

During Molten Fury, if you have the position to cast Fire Blast, you can use it as a mana dump. Try not to use it during haste buffs, however- the haste benefits cast spells more than instant cast, even with haste effecting GCD.

As a side note, retail also suffered a bug where, if a fireblast was cast while a fireball was in mid-air, the ignites would not properly stack if both crit, resulting in a loss of ignite damage in all cases. I have not confirmed if private servers carry this bug as well. If it does, this devalues fireblast to the point of near-uselessness.

3.5 Burst Windows and Cooldowns

Proper use of cooldowns is what separates a good mage from the great mage. It’s fairly simple to follow a guide to get the correct specialization, gear, buffs, and the fire mage rotation is dead simple. However, it takes a lot of experience and communication to properly use your cooldowns.

The first rule of thumb is that most cooldowns give a greater advantage when used together rather than separately. The second rule of thumb is that it’s always bad to hold on to a cooldown you could have used, and then had back up at the proper time to use it to its fullest advantage.

To understand burst windows, here’s the buffs and cooldowns you’ll want to watch to maximize your DPS.

Bloodlust/Heroism

Haste Trinket (if necessary)

Spellpower Trinket (if necessary)

Icy Veins

Combustion

Destruction Potion

Flame Cap

Molten Fury

Improved Scorch Fire Vulnerability

You’ll notice that Molten Fury, which is +20% damage to any target below 20% health, is listed as a cooldown. This is intentional- this is in fact your strongest cooldown window. Your cooldown stacking should start with the understanding that you will be blowing CDs so that your cooldown’s effects all end the very second the boss dies. From there, you should work backwards.

The fire mage has four distinct ‘types’ of cooldowns available to them. We’ll call them ‘regen,’ ‘haste,’ ‘modifier,’ and ‘damage.’

Haste cooldowns increase the casting speed of your scorch and fireball equally. It does not change their damage, only the speed at which they come out. It does not assist fireblast.
Your haste cooldowns are Bloodlust/Heroism, your haste trinket, and icy veins. Icy Veins, however, has a caveat- it also makes you immune to spell pushback, which can be even more useful than its haste in some fights.

Modifier cooldowns increase your damage by a percentage, and are a strange beast. Modifier cooldowns stack with damage cooldowns, but they don’t particularly stack well with haste cooldowns. They also, however, stack incredibly well with themselves. Your modifier cooldowns are Molten Fury, Combustion, and Improved Scorch. Of particular note is that Combustion DOES NOT stack in any way with haste. For this reason, you should only use combustion during Molten Fury, and if the fight lasts long enough for you to use it early on, with damage cooldowns.

Damage cooldowns are quite simple. They give you more spellpower. They scale quite logically with both modifier and haste cooldowns. Your damage cooldowns are your spellpower trinket, destruction potions, and flame caps.

Regen cooldowns are Evocation, Mana Gem, and Super Mana Potion. Evocation scales with haste, but it is typically not worth wasting other cooldowns to get the faster evocation. That said, if all your other cooldowns’ effects have expired and you know you’ll be casting evocate anyway, cast evocation at the last second of your haste buff. You will ‘artificially’ extend your haste buff to cover the entirety of your evocation, since spell length is calculated at spell cast.

Mana Gem shares a cooldown with Flame Cap, and Super Mana Potion shares a cooldown with Destruction Potion. Keep these in mind. Mana Potions or Mana Gems, if used, should be used as soon as you have lost the same amount of mana as they restore. This is so you don’t waste any of the restored mana by hitting your total mana cap, and so that the cooldown for using the mana regen comes up faster to allow more usages of the cooldown in the fight.

Evocate could be considered the same way, but you rarely need a full channel of evocate to finish a fight, let alone have a fight last long enough to use two channels of evocate.

There is one cooldown available that falls outside the rest of the categories- Invisibility. Invisibility takes one GCD to activate, and every second for the next (four/five?) seconds it reduces your threat by (25%/20%?). Using Invisibility after blowing your cooldowns- or shortly after- is a DPS loss from the GCD, but tends to be a DPS gain as you won’t be threat capped. Don’t actually let Invisibility activate, cancel the buff with 0 seconds left. You don’t want to actually enter invis and lose both your target, situational awareness, and your cast channel, but just gain the threat reduction.

In extreme mana drought situations, you can also invisibility to completion, and eat/drink straight out of it. This is, of course, a massive DPS loss… but preferably to spending the fight wanding.

As a final note, randomly proc’d cooldowns (such as on-hit effects from trinkets) should never be considered when calculating when to use cooldowns. Never attempt to ‘fish’ for the proc either. It it nearly always a DPS loss.

4. Gearing Your Fire Mage

4.1 Stat Overview

WIP tl;dr: Hit (to cap) > Haste > Spell Power > Crit > Int > Spirit

4.2 Vontre’s Equivalence Point Values

Vontre was a very well known, respected mage theorycrafter in Burning Crusade, and he shared some general rules of thumb for gearing up in the form of equivalence points- in other words, how much is a stat worth compared to 1 point of spellpower? Please keep in mind that these are approximate values and should not be treated as gospel. I’ll let his words take us from here.

Quote

To compare stat budget on certain pieces of gear, we will use the Equivalence Point System. An Equivalence Point System (EP System) is a way to determine which of two pieces of gear is superior. You assign an EP for one stat, and then you rank every other stat proportional to the first one. We’ll use this system in each tier of raid content to help choose gear. Some stats in our sequence may become obsolete at some point, like Spell Hit. Spell Hit reduces your chance to resist on a target (17% resist chance on a boss) up until you have a 1% chance to resist; after this point, it’s no longer benefiting in virtually any way for you to stack spell hit. You will require 164 Spell Hit as Fire.

To use an EP system, you multiply each stat’s value by the number of stats on an item. After you do that for each individual stat, sum them all up and then compare that sum to another EP sum of another item.

Pre-Raid EPV is based off having a majority of gear that’s blue heroic gear and crafted.
T4 EPV is based off having a majority of gear that’s from Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair, Magtheridon’s Lair and Pre-2.3 Badge gear.
T5 EPV is based off having a majority of gear that’s from Tempest Keep: The Eye, Serpentshrine Cavern, Zul’Aman, and 2.3 Badge Gear.
T6 EPV is based off having a majority of gear that’s from Black Temple, Mount Hyjal, and 2.4 Badge Gear.
Sunwell EPV is based off having a majority of gear that’s from Sunwell Plateau.

Quote

EP Values

Stat            Pre-Raid     T4       T5      T6   Sunwell
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Spell Hit           1.2     1.4      1.5     1.6      1.9
Spell Haste         0.8     0.95     1.1     1.2      1.1
Spell Damage        1.0     1.0      1.0     1.0      1.0
Spell Crit          0.5     0.6      0.6     0.7      0.7
Intellect           0.2     0.2      0.2     0.2      0.2
Spirit              N/A     0.11     0.11    0.11     0.11
Chaotic Meta       12.0    20.0     25.0    30.0     35.0

4.3 Enchants

Standard Enchants:
Head: Glyph of Power
Shoulders: Greater Inscription of the Orb (Scryers Only) / Greater Inscription of Discipline (Aldors Only)
Back: Enchant Cloak: Subtlety
Chest: Enchant Chest – Exceptional Stats
Bracers: Enchant Bracer – Spellpower
Gloves: Enchant Gloves – Major Spellpower
Pants: Runic Spellthread
Feet: Enchant Boots – Boar’s Speed
Rings: Enchant Ring – Spellpower (Enchanters only)
Weapon: Enchant Weapon – Sunfire

Cheaper/Alternative Enchants:
Head: N/A
Shoulders: Inscription of the Orb (Scryers Only) / Inscription of Discipline (Aldors Only)
Back: N/A
Chest: Enchant Chest – Greater Stats
Bracers: Enchant Bracer – Major Intellect
Gloves: Enchant Gloves – Spell Strike / Enchant Gloves – Blasting
Pants: Mystic Spellthread
Feet: N/A
Rings: Enchant Ring – Spellpower (Enchanters only)
Weapon: Enchant Weapon – Major Spellpower

4.4 Gems

Meta Gem: Chaotic Skyfire Diamond
Red: Runed Crimson Spinel / Runed Living Ruby
Yellow: Veiled Pyrestone / Veiled Noble Topaz OR Reckless Pyrestone / Reckless Noble Topaz
Blue: Glowing Shadowsong Amethyst / Glowing Nightseye

Use at most 2 Glowing gems, only in sockets that give worthwhile socket bonuses. This is so you can activate your meta gem bonus.
Use Veiled gems when you’re not hit capped, Reckless when you are.

4.5 Consumables

Flask: Flask of Pure Death / Shattrath Flask of Pure Death
Food: Blackened Basilisk
Potion*: Super Mana Potion / Destruction Potion
Healthstone Timer**: Mana Emerald / Flame Cap / Master Healthstone
Weapon: Brilliant Wizard Oil

* Pick between damage and mana as needed- these items share a 2 minute cooldown.
** Pick between damage, mana, and survival as needed- these items share another 2 minute cooldown.

4.6 Upgrade Lists

At a later time, I’ll generate a fairly complete gear listing for every slot and link to it here. However, given time constraints, that topic hasn’t yet been breached- my apologies.

5. Buffs And Your Raid Group

5.1 Which Armor to Use?

Molten Armor is the superior DPS armor. Use it if you will not run oom in the fight. If you will sped a part of the fight oom, or your evocate has a chance of being interupted, use Mage Armor instead.

5.2 Amplify/Dampen Magic

These are incredibly situational. Healers should probably be making the call on Dampen Magic, but feel free to Amplify Magic your raid on bosses without magic damage if your healers are struggling.

5.3 Buff Synergies

Fire mages apply a +15% fire damage buff on the boss. This is useful primarily to other fire mages in your group, but it does give a minimal buff to Flame Shock, Searing Totem, and Greater Fire Elemental for shamans, as well as any fire spells a warlock may cast. This is only a minimal buff for warlocks- the standard warlock rotation is to simply cast Shadowbolt endlessly.

On the other hand, mages can benefit greatly from your teammates.

Shaman gives quite possibly the best benefits we could ask for. They bring Wrath of Air Totem, Mana Spring Totem, and Bloodlust to the table. Elemental Shaman also bring Totem of Wrath, which can allow you to gear for less hit.

Paladin can bring Concentration Aura to the table, which prevents you from getting any spell pushback at all if you are specced correctly. Ret and Prot paladins may also bring Seal of Wisdom to the table, which can help with mana regeneration in truly dire periods. Blessing of Wisdom lets you DPS longer, and Blessing of Salvation will be incredibly useful. Blessing of Kings is also quite nice.
Druid brings Mark of the Wild. That is the primary benefit you will have from a druid in your group, unless you’re lucky enough to get a Boomkin in your group. Druids also bring innervate to the table, but that will more than likely be going to your healers.
Warlock give Curse of Elements, a nice boost to damage.
Priest, depending on their race, can bring a bit more mana to the table with Hymn of Hope. As shadow, they can also provide you with more mana than you could ever possibly conceive of using. Other than that, they bring their usual collection of buffs- Fortitude, shadow resistance, etc.

6. Raid Overviews, Tips, and Tricks

This section is still being built.

6.1 Gruul’s Lair

Gruul The Dragonkiller
As a mage equipped with blink, you should be trying to reach the far-most corners of the room during shatter, simply because you can. This leaves plenty of room for other classes to spread out that aren’t quite as mobile. Blink can also quickly get you out of a cave-in- if you cannot blink, remember to use a GCD on fireblast if you’re in range to keep DPS up. Do not finish your cast during a cave-in, no matter how temptingly close it is to going off. You can spare the ~50 DPS loss over the course of the fight that you lose by canceling your casts. What your raid may not recover from is the loss of all your DPS due to dying to cave in. An important note is that Gruul does ENTIRELY physical damage- put Amplify Magic on everyone, especially your tanks. Your healers should thank you. Finally, every now and then (more so as the fight progresses) Gruul will cast Reverberate, which will silence (but not interupt) you. This is something you just need to deal with- despite rumors to the contrary, Reverberate will hit you no matter where you are or how far from him you are. Don’t waste your time trying to get around it. Reverberate lasts 4 seconds, so keep in mind that you need to add an extra 4 seconds to your scorch planning.

7. Macros

Right Click to Eat/Drink, Left Click Four Times to Conjure Food/Water
#showtooltip Conjured Croissant
/use [btn:2] Conjured Croissant
/use [btn:2] Conjured Glacier Water
/castsequence [btn:1] Conjure Food(Rank 8), Conjure Food(Rank 8), Conjure Water(Rank 9), Conjure Water(Rank 9)


Right Click to Eat/Drink, Left Click to Summon Table.
#showtooltip Conjured Manna Biscuit
/use [btn:2] Conjured Manna Biscuit
/cast [btn:1] Ritual of Refreshment


Right Click To Conjure Mana Emerald, Press to Use
#showtooltip Mana Emerald
/cast [btn:2] Conjure Mana Emerald
/use Mana Emerald


Fix Recount Freeze
/script CombatLogClearEntries()

Mouseover Decurse
#showtooltip
/cast [target=mouseover,exists][] Remove Lesser Curse


Fireblast Right Now
#showtooltip
/stopcasting
/cast Fire Blast


Iceblock Right Now
#showtooltip
/stopcasting
/cast Ice Block


Polymorph Macro (Sheeps your focus without changing your current target. Before it does that, it also resets your focus to current target, or clears it if you don’t have a target, when your focus is dead, turns friendly, you hit shift, or you don’t have a focus. In other words, it changes your focus if your focus isn’t a currently-CC’able target, but otherwise sheeps your focus.)
#showtooltip
/clearfocus [target=focus,dead][target=focus,noexists][mod:shift][target=focus,noharm]
/focus [target=focus,noexists]
/cast [target=focus]Polymorph

8. Tools

8.1 Vontre’s Mage DPS Spreadsheet

This spreadsheet allows you to see what kind of damage you would do in each spec with your gear, talents, race, raid group, and buffs. It is an excellent way of seeing how much damage you should be doing in a Patchwerk style environment, as well as testing/comparing gems and gear.

9. FAQ

9.1 When is Arcane Spec viable for PVE?
Arcane mage becomes viable in TBC once you gain two pieces of tier 5, which gives Arcane Blast 20% increased damage and 20% increased mana cost. Arcane can outperform fire, but it requires very specific gear and circumstances to become viable. If you have two pieces of tier 5, are guaranteed access to a shadow priest, and your raid has many innervates, you may want to look into speccing arcane if your raid group can support the mana drain. Arcane is built upon one ideal- the idea that you can trade mana at any time for more damage. If you end the fight with mana, you have done less damage than you could have… and if you run out of mana before the fight ends, you have also failed to do as much damage as you could. Arcane spec is INCREDIBLY mana hungry, and the slightest mistake tanks your damage irrecoverably.

9.2 When is Frost Spec viable for PVE?
At very low gear levels. Frost scales with gear the worst out of all three specs. Even pre-raid best-in-slot lends itself to Fire spec over frost. If you plan to be raiding in poor gear, consider Frost. If you plan to have a modicum of gear from dungeons before you step in to a raid, I would still recommend Clearcasting Fire spec- it’s still too mana hungry for a raid in poor gear, but for instances it will do fine. This will give you enough time to step in to Karazhan with enough gear to let Clearcasting keep you going through the raid.

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3 Comments on "TBC Mage Guide"

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Kasper Werner
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Would picking the bonus crit damge deep into arcane be worth it? i makes your crits hit super hard and ive heard that ignite stacks so critting more often with a higher base roll would make your ignite do crazy damge.
For PvP i would choose that any way due to sheep, pyro +instant pyro (+ damge modifyer CD from arcane)