Mage Guide (1-60)

This in-depth Vanilla WoW Mage Guide contains Talents, Consumables, Stat Priority, Pre-raid gear, Enchants, and everything else you will need as an aspiring mage!


For 5-man instances and 20-man raids, my preferred spec is the max DPS Fire build:

Fire Combustion 17/31/3
Fire build mage

There are certain mobs that are resistant to Fire in the Blackrock Mountain instances, but just use frost spells against those mobs. Enjoy playing Fire while it lasts, because the moment you start to venture into Molten Core, you won’t be playing Fire anymore for a very very long time.

For Molten Core and Blackwing Lair the only sensible option is frost. There are 2 frost-options. The Winter’s Chill-stacking spec, and the Arcane Power-frost spec.

Winter’s Chill 19/0/32

Winter's chill build
Arcane Power-frost 31/0/20

Arcane power build

Winter’s Chill adds a 10% crit chance to all Frost spells from all mages in the raid. It is a must that there is at least 1 mage in your guild who joins the raids with these talents. It is a common procedure that the newcomers in the guild get asked to spec Winter’s Chill while the better-geared mages use the Arcane Power variant. However, having some of the most experienced mages use Improved Blizzard is probably the best way to progress through the Suppression Room in Blackwing Lair. This probably should not be left in the hands of the newcomers.

Having all mages spec into Winters-chill Spec (or some variant) can also be useful when your guild is trying new content where there is raid-damage involved. Having Ice Barrier and Ice Block will take some stress off the healers. The longer the raid survives, even if you’re not getting the kill, the more up-time you have on the encounter to learn and adapt to the mechanics.

For Ahn’Qiraj Temple and Naxxramas, you will be using Fire Combustion in most of the raids. For some fights, frost talents really help out, but if your guild has started Naxxramas, you hopefully won’t have much use for tips on what to spec anymore, so let’s just skip that.


Depending on which raids you are doing, some of these consumables may be considered over-extending a little bit. However, here’s a somewhat full list of the consumables that I bring to AQ40 and Naxxramas raids:

Standard consumables:

Extra for specific encounters:

Stat Priorities

We have 3 aims for collecting our stats, listed from most important to least important.

Increase the damage of our spells, as to increase our DPS

  • Increased Spell Damage
  • Chance to Critical Hit with Spells
  • Chance to Hit with Spells
  • Spell Penetration (not worth collecting for PvE)

Increase our mana pool and regeneration, as to increase our dmg till oom.

  • Intellect
  • Spirit
  • Mana every 5 seconds

Increase our survivability, as to allow us to continue to deal damage

  • Stamina
  • Resistances

I strongly recommend downloading the addon Theorycraft. This will expand the in-game tooltip of your spells and give detailed information about the items you’re wearing and their effect on your spells.

Increased Spell Damage
An item that increases Damage done by Spells and Effects by 21 will not add 21 damage to all spells you cast. You have to look up the Spell-coefficient for our spells to see how much of your spell damage will benefit the various spells. The Theorycraft addon will actually show this while in-game, but for the sake of examples here are a few:

81.4% Frostbolt
100% Fireball
42.8% Fireblast
42.8% Scorch
14.3% Arcane Explosion

So with the example of 21 spell damage increase, you only see the full 21 damage on fireballs. Every arcane explosion will do 3 more damage to each target affected (which adds up of course since it may affect many targets at once).

Chance to Hit
As a caster you will -always- have a 1% chance to miss with your spells.
But also the level difference between you and your target adds further chances to miss.

Assuming you’re level 60:
Target level 60 = 4% chance to miss. 3% chance to Hit is needed for the cap. (PvP)
Target level 61 = 5% chance to miss. 4% chance to Hit is needed for the cap.
Target level 62 = 6% chance to miss. 5% chance to Hit is needed for the cap.
Target level 63 = 17% chance to miss. 16% chance to Hit is needed for the cap. (PvE)

Raid bosses are level 63, so our aim is to end up with a 16% chance to Hit.
You will gain a 6% chance to Hit from talents, so the last 10% must come from gear.

Chance to Crit
One misconception about Chance to Crit is that 1% more chance to Crit means out of 100 casts, an additional one of them will crit. But that’s not exactly how it works. Every time you add one more 1% chance to Crit, you have to factor in your resist-chance into the calculation to see what it actually ends up changing.

If you have a 10% chance to resist a boss, then you will have a 90% chance to hit it, in other words.
So if your crit chance is 20%, then only 90% of those will land on the target, and so the final amount of Criticals would be:
20 * 0,9 = 18 spells out of 100 casts will be a Critical hit.

I’ve made this Calculator to compare your items and see how much more valuable +Chance to Hit really is. Every time you get another 1% Chance to Hit, you reduce the number of Resists you do on a boss, and you also increase your Critical hit chance, because you enable another spell to potentially become a Critical hit.

Spellcaster Damage Calculator

Spell Penetration
Decreases the Magical Resistance of your target
A simple rule of thumb is that each 10 spell penetration adds a 2.5% DPS increase on average, assuming the mob has any resistance in the first place since it isn’t possible to reduce enemy resistance to below 0.

In Raids it is usually the case that if resistance to a particular school is very common, then Mages will simply respec to get rid of the problem, rather than try to look for items that reduce enemy resistance. This is why we don’t use Fire talents in Molten Core.

Resistance is very common in PvP due to the various class-buffs as well as Tier 1 and Tier 2 set having a lot of resistance on it. The reason for the spell penetration is obviously to avoid having your counterspells and polymorphs be resisted by the alliance, which usually ends up with you having to corpse run.

For the sake of understanding the math behind resistances, here is a spreadsheet:

Note: some spells like polymorph, counterspell, and others will either do their full effect or none at all. For those spells, their chance to resist is the “average DPS lost” percentage.

For every 59.5 intellect you have, you gain a 1% chance to crit.
For every 1 intellect you have, you gain 15 maximum mana.

The critical-factor of Intellect is so small that it is negligible, and this is why it is a secondary stat, mainly it only increasing our aim of damage till oom, as more mana allows for more casts. Don’t put too much focus on Intellect. Get whatever intellect you can from your best possible spell damage items and that will be fine. Compensate with Major Mana Potions and Demonic Runes if you tend to get out of mana too quickly. If you use the Spellcaster Damage Calculator I linked earlier, you can add the Intellect into the calculations to see the benefit in damage from the intellect.

Spirit and Mana every 5 seconds
Well, these stats are absolute garbage in my opinion.
I’d say that 1 mana/5 seconds is equal to 1 spell damage. Others may disagree, but the fact is that there are just not many fights out there which lasts so long that you end up going out of mana.

This does not increase your DPS nor our damage till oom, but the downside is reaching 0 health reduces your damage to absolute zero.
But that being said, in most raiding situations if you’re taking damage it means you’re standing at a wrong spot. Whatever stamina that you end up with after prioritizing solely on spell damage items, is what you’re going to end up with. Don’t worry about it. Don’t pull aggro and don’t stand at a bad spot, and you’ll be fine. Again I suggest that you watch the Faxmonkey video posted earlier in this topic. It shows excellently what play style you need in order to survive hard fights.

Pre-Raid Gear

Since the two first 40-man raids will be done with Frost talents, we’ll have the Pre-raid gear items fit that pattern.
Without donations, rep-farming, or drops from the summonable bosses which can only be done as part of the T0.5 quest-chains, this is what your pre-raid BiS list would look like:

Helm: Spellweaver’s Turban – Upper Blackrock Spire
Neck: Diana’s Pearl Necklace – Strat Living
Shoulder: Boreal Mantle – Blackrock Depths
Cloak: Crystalline Threaded Cape – auction House
Chest: Bloodvine Vest – crafted by a tailor
Wrist: Sublime Wristguards – Dire Maul North
Gloves: Hands of Power – Lower Blackrock Spire
Belt: Ban’thok Sash – Blackrock Depths
Legs: Bloodvine Leggings – crafted by a tailor
Boots: Bloodvine Boots – crafted by a tailor
Ring: Don Mauricio’s Band of Domination – Scholomance
Ring: Freezing Band – Auction House
Trinket: Briarwood Reed – Upper Blackrock Spire
Trinket: Eye of the Beast – quest reward as part of the Onyxia-attunement Quest (horde) – or through a quest started by killing the last boss in Lower Blackrock Spire (alliance).
Weapon: Rod of the Ogre Magi – Dire Maul North
Wand: Bonecreeper Stylus – Scholomance


Helm: Arcanum of Focus gotten from doing the Libram of Focus quest. If you got Spellweaver’s Turban or something better, then definitely go for the Zul’Gurub Enchant: Presence of Sight
Shoulder: Zandalar Signet of Mojo – requires Exalted Reputation with Zul’Gurub
Cloak: Subtlety*
Chest: Greater Stats – semi-rare enchant. Alternatively, you can use Major Health to compensate for the low amount of hp from bloodvine gear
Wrist: Mana Regeneration or Superior Stamina
Gloves: Frost Power* or Fire Power*
Legs: Arcanum of Focus gotten from doing the Libram of Focus quest. If you got the Bloodvine Leggings or better then definitely go for the Zul’Gurub Enchant: Presence of Sight
Boots: Minor Speed is my preferred choice, others may go with Greater Stamina or Spirit
Weapon: Spell Power*

* = Rare-enchant. Drops from bosses in Molten Core or Ahn’Qiraj.

Player versus Player

Mage is a fun class in PvP because the talents you’ve got affect your playstyle and their differences are quite big.
If you came to this part of the guide to get tips on good builds for battlegrounds, then these two are my favorites:

Improved Counterspell + Ice Barrier
17/0/34   Build

  • Ice Barrier absorbs both physical and magic damage, making warlocks actually killable without a 3 minutes cd.
  • Ice Block and Cold Snap add an arsenal of escape-ways, which really help out if you’re running with 2.5k health. Or if you are over-geared and like being a ranged tank.
  • Shatter, which opens up for “Frost Nova -> Frostbolt -> Cone of Cold” which can be a great burst even with average gear.
  • Improved Blizzard is a great talent, make sure to only take 2 ranks of it so it doesn’t block cone of cold from getting applied.
  • Unless you spec Arcane Power, this is probably the best spec to defeat Shadow priests, Warlocks and Hunters, which are the 3 main counters to Mages.
  • Paladins with Blessing of Freedom can make it very hard to finish off a flag-carrier by yourself, as you have to set up a burst that requires Frost Nova. Shamans can purge (remove) your Ice Barrier away and Frostbolt won’t be useful because of earth shocks (interrupt) short cooldown.
  • Your primary damage spell has a 2.5 seconds cast-time, and you will be very vulnerable to spell pushback while Ice Barrier is not up.

Presence of Mind + Fire Power
21/30/0   Build

  • PoM + Pyro is a great Burst and doesn’t take any build-up.
  • Blastwave is like a mixture of Cone of Cold, Fire Blast, and Frost Nova. Is more forgiving than Cone of Cold because you may miss with Cone of Cold even if the target seems to be standing right in front of you, which does not happen with Blastwave. It’s also an additional instant-cast to your burst rotation which makes a big difference.
  • Scorch does not fly through the air to reach the target, you may be able to do some damage before the enemy spots your location.
  • Scorch only has a 1.5-sec cast-time. You also have talents to reduce spell-pushbacks, which makes a huge difference.
  • Lack of Survivability. Most of the time if you kill that Shadowpriest or Warlock with your cooldowns, you still die to the DoTs afterward. Hunters eat you alive unless you have very good gear.