Arcane Mage Patch 3.2.2 Guide

September 30, 2009

Sorry again for the lack of updates.  Here is my updated Arcane Mage Guide for Patch 3.2.2!

This covers talent points, glyphs, cooldowns, rotations, and everything else you need to play an arcane mage effectively!


How Specs Are Affected by Set Bonuses

August 17, 2009

Note that I wrote this prior to the 3.2 patch, and forgot to link to it here!  Sorry about that.  Anyway all the info on the T9 set bonus ended up going live, so my advice still stands.   Check it out here on Wowconfidential!

Managing Mage Set Bonuses

July 3, 2009

Things were easy back when Naxx and Tier-7 gear were your only option, but now with Tier-8 (and Tier-9 very near on the horizon), suddenly mages have some tricky decisions to make!  This guide to set bonuses analyzes the value of the 2- and 4-piece set bonuses to deep fire, frostfire, and arcane mages.  Check it out here on WowConfidential!

Also, my apologies for the lack of recent posts.  I try to only write posts when I actually have something to say, so naturally there are going to be stretches where I simply don’t!

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How much hit rating do you need?

June 10, 2009

We all know hit rating is important, but figuring out exactly how much you need is a bit of a chore.  So, here’s a helpful guide to help you figure out how much you should carry!

Read Article>>

Quick Note

June 4, 2009

Just a note:  I’ll now be writing posts for the excellent site WoW Confidential, which has plenty of interesting guides and articles already.  But if you have this blog bookmarked, do not fret – I’ll still be posting links here to everything I write over there, so you don’t have to change anything! 

For example, here’s the “getting geared” post (below) on WoW Confidential!

Thanks to everyone who has made this tiny little blog sorta-semi-alittlebit popular!

Getting Geared Right Away (with no dungeons!)

May 29, 2009

I have a Death Knight alt (doesn’t everyone?) that I’ve been working on gearing up, and I’ve been surprised how easy it was to get an initial set of gear.  My Death Knight is a tank, and within 3 hours of hitting 80 I was defense-capped with over 26k unbuffed HP without ever setting foot in a dungeon.  These stats aren’t great, of course – but they are perfectly passable to start doing heroics and maybe even 10-man raids. 

So, if a death knight can do it, a mage can too, right?  Below is a list of items that mages who just hit 80 or who haven’t had good luck with heroics or getting into raids. 

Keep in mind that this list includes NO items which comes from dungeons, raids, or emblems of heroism

All that matters is that you have the gold  – and no matter how good or experienced a player you are, you can ALWAYS make gold.  Whether you want to do daily quests (which have the side benefit of helping your reputation) or just grind for hours, the only thing required to make a lot of gold is effort.  That said, I’m not recommending anything here that should cost you a HUGE amount of gold (like the Kirin Tor rings).

So, without further ado, let’s look at some quality starter items that you can get without ever setting foot into a dungeon:

Titan Forged Hood of Dominance or
Titan Forged Hood of Salvation

Cost:  40 Marks of Wintergrasp

Whether or not you’re a big PvP fan, playing in Wintergrasp is pretty painless.  You can just sit in a corner if you want, and you’re guaranteed at least 1 mark, win or lose.  Plus, you can play a bunch of times each day!  Just ignore the resilience on these helms – they’ve got a very solid amount of spellpower, a nice amount of hit (if you need it) or haste, and a meta socket, which is crucial for mages.  They are both straight-up upgrades over Hat of Wintry Doom, which you can have easily tailored for you if you are completely allergic to any and all PvP.

Chain of Latent Energies

Cost:  Depends on your server, but likely a 4-digit number.

A super nice BOE necklace that you should be able to find on your local AH.  On my server, the price varies from about 1,000g up to 1,700g.  Pretty reasonable for an item of this quality.  You can also find a jewelcrafter to make you a Titanium Spellshock Necklace, which, depending on the cost of Dragon’s Eyes on your server, may be quite a bit cheaper. 

Dark Runic Mantle

Cost:  Probably 100g or so, depending on your server

A BOE drop from Halls of Stone.  The price on your server will likely be lowest on days in which HoS is the daily heroic, because (at least for me) this seems to drop at least once per run.  Very nice stats for a mage, including the nifty red socket.  Quite frankly, it gives essentially the same benefit to you as Mantle of the Extensive Mind, which would probably cost about 20 times as much.

Deathchill Cloak

Cost:  Probably in the 400-700g range for mats

The mats are a tad on the expensive side, but this cloak is the real deal if you’re interested in pure DPS (and you’re a mage, so you should be!).  It can even last you into Ulduar. 

Ebonweave Robe or
Spellweave Robe

Cost:  A few hundred gold for the mats.

Choose one based on whether you need the hit rating or not (hint:  if you’re a frostfire/fire mage, you probably do; if you’re an arcane mage, you probably don’t).  It’ll probably be significantly cheaper  just to buy the materials and find a tailor to make you one of these, but if you’re lazy and wealthy you can just buy one off the AH directly.

Wraps of the Astral Traveler

Cost:  Hopefully under 1K gold on your server

This is a tough slot to fill, but these are probably your best option if your wealthy.  Raiders with excess Emblems of Valor will put these on the auction house fairly regularly, and at least on my server they’re cheaper than the other bracers.  If you can’t find them for under 1K gold, or if you’re having money issues, then Ancestral Sinew Wristwraps are decent if you put a red SP gem in them, and require you only be revered with the Wyrmrest Accord.

Ebonweave Gloves or
Spellweave Gloves

Cost:  Probably in the 200-500g range

Like the robe, find yourself a tailor and figure out whether you need the hit rating or not.  The material requirements for these are not bad, making them an easily-acquirable early upgrade.

Belt of Dark Mending

Cost:  Requires you be Exalted with Knights of the Ebon Blade

Knights of the Ebon Blade has 6 daily quests and a ton of non-repeatable quests, so you can easily get exalted with them in a relatively short period of time without ever wearing their tabard in a dungeon.  The belt itself is certainly nice enough to take into raids.

Black Duskweave Leggings

Cost:  Cheap

Very few good options for this slot.  These pants are good enough for for what they are, though, and they can be had for relatively cheap materials.

Sandals of Crimson Fury

Cost:  Exalted with Wyrmrest Accord

These are awesome boots that you can take well into your raiding experience.  Unfortunately, Wyrmrest only has three daily quests, so unless you’re running heroics they might take a little while to acquire (make sure you do all the non-repeatable Wyrmrest quests in Dragonblight!).  If you need something temporary until you hit exalted, Silky Iceshard Boots are reasonable.

Titanium Spellshock Ring

Cost:  Probably under 1K gold, depending on server.

An easy choice – Jewelcrafters make these and the mats are not killer.  You can pop a +19 spellpower gem into this and take it into Ulduar! 

Signet of Hopeful Light

Cost:  Exalted with Argent Crusade

The Argent Crusade have a few dailies and a lot of non-repeatable quests in Zul’Drak and Icecrown to help you get your rep up.  Ring of Northern Tears is a nice, cheap option until you get exalted.

Darkmoon Card:  Illusion

Cost:  Hopefully under 1K gold, depending on server

You can now buy these off the AH!  Not an ideal item, but a ton of spellpower makes it attractive, especially as a starter trinket.  The price seems to vary widely, at least on my server.

Cannoneer’s Fuselighter from the quest The Last Line of Defense or
Rune of Infinite Power from the quest Mystery of the Infinite, Redux

These are quest rewards – there aren’t a lot of good options for trinkets until you’ve got the 40 emblems to buy Sundial of the Exiled.

Gnomeragen Bonechopper (there is also a Horde version of the same weapon)

Cost:  25 Champion’s Seals from the Argent Tournament

Argent Tournament dailies are easy, quick, profitable, and can lead to this item!  It’s a great weapon to start raiding with and very comparable to 10-man Naxx drops.

Faces of Doom

Cost:  Probably a few hundred gold on your AH

Inscribers make this – the mat cost isn’t terrible and the stats are very nice.  You can probably find a few on your AH at any time!

Shinygem Rod

Cost:  Revered with the Oracles

No great options here – if you choose the Oracles, this wand is just fine for the mage just starting out.  You can also pick up Iceshrieker’s Touch from a quest in Storm Peaks.


So there you go!  With some effort and gold, you can put together a pretty decent set of starter gear without ever setting foot in any kind of dungeon!

When does YOUR damage matter?

May 21, 2009

Everything on this blog is meant to be very practical, because all it’s really concerned with is helping you do more damage – so my apologies if this topic is a little bit theoretical.  It was inspired by an excellent post over at Gnomeaggeddon’s mage blog.

There are three roles in any raid:  tank, healer, and DPS.  The first two, I would argue, have no accurate numerical way to measure their individual performance in raids.  Tanks certainly do not – there are no “tanking meters” and no popular stats for tank performance.  Healers have the healing meters – but total healing done is largely assignment-based.  If your job is healing the off-tank, and the off-tank doesn’t take too much damage (but also doesn’t die), then you’ve done your job but will probably finish lower on the meters than, say, a priest who just spammed prayer of mending the entire fight to top off the raid. 

No, the performance of tanks and healers is measured first and foremost by the success of the raid.  If bosses are dying and raid members are not, then it’s a safe assumption that the tanks and healers are doing a good job.

But it’s different for DPS.  Our goal (on most fights) is to simply do damage, and that damage can and is measured objectively, accurately, and numerically with programs like Recount and Wow Web Stats.    Not only can those meters gauge the performance of the DPS group as a whole, they allow for comparison between individual damage-dealers.

However, the point I’d like to make is that not all damage is equal.  This has always been true, and is now especially true with the more complex Ulduar fights.  So I’d like to run through some scenarios regarding where I believe YOUR individual damage is and is not important:

  • Your damage is NOT important on standard trash pulls.  I know it’s fun to AOE and pad your numbers, but honestly if you just sat out most trash pulls, your raid would be fine without you.   Don’t get hung up on how much damage you’re doing to trash, and if someone in your raid is bragging about their damage on trash, then politely remind them that the point of raiding is to kill bosses. 🙂
  • Your damage IS important on trash mobs or boss adds that have can “enrage.”  The Emalon encounter is a perfect example.  When an add starts to grow, the DPS has a fixed amount of time to get it down before it wipes the raid.  No amount of tanking or healing can prevent the wipe from happening, so it’s up to the DPS to hit the add hard and fast.   Following an Emalon fight, look at the individual player breakdowns in Recount or Wow Web Stats (the “who hit who” column) – the DPS who did the most single-target add damage are really the most valuable players in that fight, NOT the DPS who did the most total damage.
  • Your damage is NOT important on generic, AOE-able boss adds.  Noth the Plaguebringer is the best example in Naxx, and Razorscale is the best example in Ulduar.  Assuming you are with a competent raid, the mobs in the “add phases” of those fights will die one way or another, whether you’re helping or not.  Sure they’ll die a little quicker with your blizzard or flamestrike involved – but seriously, I’m sure your raid would be fine without you. 

    Note that the Gluth adds do NOT fall into this category, because even though they’re AOE-able, it’s very important that they die before they reach him, and therefore DPS’ing them is a central element to the fight. 

  • Your damage IS VERY important on “burn” phases of bosses.  Here’s where mages should excel.  Let’s use the Razorscale fight as an example:  there’s a minute or so of fighting adds where a lot of people are going to do a lot of damage, then a 20 second or so burn phase on Razorscale himself.  Your raid’s effectiveness during this burn phase determines how many add phases there are, the length of the fight, and whether your raid beats the enrage timer.  So, uh, which phase do you think it’s more important to save your cooldowns for?  When you look at the damage meter after the fight, pay specific attention to the people who did the most damage to Razorscale himself, because those are the players who won the fight for you.

    The same is true for many other fights:  the first of the Four Horseman (killing him fast frees up the tank and healer(s) to help out on the other three), the first drake in a two or three drake Sartharion attempt (gotta kill it before the second drake comes down), and XT-Deconstructor’s heart (killing it fast makes the time between heart phases shorter).  These are  just a few examples of times when your damage on a specific phase is more telling than your overall damage.

  • Your damage is NOT particularly important on bosses without a strict enrage timer during low damage phases.  Let’s go back to Kara for an example:  Remember the Prince Malchezzar fight?  He was basically a pussycat until he got his swords in phase 2.  Your damage in phase one was not really important – as long as everyone was doing mediocre damage, it would eventually be over – that’s why your raid probably saved heroism/bloodlust for phase 2.  Additionally, your raid could take it easy on Romulo and Julienne until the final phase, when the healing becomes much more of an issue.

    In Naxx, the same applies for the two adds at the start of the Thaddius fight.  Thaddius’ strict enrage timer doesn’t activate until they’re dead, so no reason to use your cooldowns to kill them – the damage you do to them is basically meaningless, so long as your raid is burning them down.  This is also true for the first phase of the Kel’Thuzad fight – as long as the adds are dying, your DPS number is not particularly important (now, if your raid is actually having issues with that phase, then it may become important).With Ulduar being new, I wouldn’t classify any of the bosses this way for the time being, at least for my guild.  However, for a boss like XT, the damage you do to the heart and the effectiveness with which you handle the adds is probably a much better indictor of your performance than just the raw total damage number.

These are just a few examples of situations in which your DPS matters and when it doesn’t.  I’m sure there are exceptions, but I just want to get the idea out there that sometimes the meters aren’t telling the full story.

Questions & Answers: Heroic DPS (part 2)

May 14, 2009

Here’s a question from Noorie:

Nice blog. I enjoy the info here, as well as the personal touch.

Not to hijack a thread, but I was wondering if I could get your opinion of what spec would benefit my current gear:

Prior to Dual Spec, I tried the Deep Fire FFB, as well as the Deep Frost FFB, and found (as you pointed out) with such low crit my dps was suffering.

I’m trying to do H runs as much as possible for gear / badges, but haven’t had much luck w/ rolls / drops. :)

Even though this is a question about personal DPS, as usual, there’s a lesson here for all mages at this gear level to learn!

Looking at the armory link above, here’s what you see:  Frost/TTW spec, very solid spellpower (1700 unbuffed), very low crit chance (11% unbuffed), very low haste rating (79), and an extremely impressive amount of hit rating (361).

So a couple observations:

  1. That much hit rating is nice for raiding (especially without a shadow priest applying misery or boomkin applying faerie fire), but not necessary for heroics, since heroic bosses are only level 82 not 83. 
  2. Getting that hit rating is severely hurting your supporting stats (crit and hase).  Since, as you mentioned, you have not been able to acquire high-level gear yet, the gear you do have access to is the type that makes you trade crit/haste for hit, or vice-versa.  This definitely rules out Deep Fire as viable specs for the time being, as it requires high hit rating AND high haste.

So what to do?  Well, maybe I’m biased, but I would take a good look at arcane.  Here would be my plan of action:

  1. Use the standard 57/3/11 arcane spec.  This instantly alleviates the hit problem:  with elemental precision and arcane focus, you’re getting 6% hit from talents, meaning that you can cut over 100 hit from your armor and still be capped for raid bosses.  I’d shoot for right around 250.
  2. Replace those Ebonweave pieces.  Don’t get rid of them entirely (you might need them in the future), but those should be the first to go into your bank.  Why?  Because you can replace them right now with spellweave!  By dropping the ebonweave robe and belt, you are giving up 119 hit rating that you no longer have any use at all for, and picking up a massive 155 haste
  3. Follow my arcane guide (it’s not shameless self-promotion if it’s on my own blog!) for glyph and rotation info.

That would be my plan.  I think a lot of mages believe arcane has really steep gear requirements, but really that’s only if you’re trying to run it regularly in 25-man raids (and even still, it’s much more manageable at low gear levels than you probably think).  Additionally, it keeps you from having to scrounge up hit rating at the cost of all other stats, and allows you to perform way above your gear level on short boss fights. 

I would remind mages of this:  the only possible way a deep fire or frostfire mage can perform beyond his/her gear level is by getting lucky with crits.  Sure you can manage your rotation perfectly, keep living bomb up all the time, always time your cooldowns perfectly, and always hit hot streak pyroblasts – but honestly those are things you SHOULD be doing if you’re FFB or deep fire.  The specs are very simple to play and therefore you should be near-perfect while playing them.  Your DPS on any given fight is basically dependent on A) your gear, and B) your luck.

With arcane, however, you can definitely perform above (or below) your gear level with perfectly average luck.  On a one-minute heroic boss fight where you blow through your cooldowns, blow through your mana, evocate, and blow through your mana again, I guarantee you post an outstanding DPS number regardless of how lucky you get with crits.  Of course, if you do that and the boss fight happens to go on for another minute, your damage will drop way below where you should be performing. 

But the point is, when your gear level is low, do you really want to lock yourself into a spec that’s ties your DPS directly to your gear level??   I would much rather take my chances with one that gives me the opportunity to transcend it.

Questions & Answers: Heroic DPS

May 11, 2009

Here’s a question courtesy of Hannah:


I recently stumbled upon your blog and I think it’s fantastic! I raided quite a bit pre-WotLK but due to starting graduate school, I fell out of playing regularly.

Since summer is here, I’m starting to get back into the swing of things. I’ve hit 80 and started doing heroics and some 10-mans, with an aim at filling in for guild raids if needed (and once I get better gear).

I know your blog is aimed towards raid DPS, but do you have any spec suggestions for someone in my shoes? My gear is not that great, but it’s getting better every week as I run more instances. I’m currently running with a deep fire spec, which is what I remember from raiding pre-WotLK but I’m not really getting the numbers that I’m looking for.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated and I will continue to watch this blog for raiding advice as I slowly move back into that role!

Thank you :)

This is just the kind of player this blog is aimed at, and my hope is that a lot of people reading this are in similar situations.  Just a reminder to the people who are interested in really specific information on maximizing raid DPS:  I do my best to give tips here, but the Elitist Jerks forums are where you should be. 🙂

Alright, with that said, let’s get to the question!  The basic situation is one that all of us were in at some point:  I turned 80 not that long ago, I have some quest gear and some instance gear – what’s the best way to put up decent numbers so I can perform in heroics and get into raids?

There are two ways to go about this, in my opinion, and both have their own advantages.

The first is to spec frostfire.  You can follow the frostfire guide on this here site to get set up with your talents, glyphs, rotation.  While frostfire does not perform great on trash, it’s nice for 10-man bosses because even at not-so-great gear levels, you are unlikely to have mana issues and you can stick to your rotation.  Frostfire is a very easy spec to play, and if you have prior raiding experience, you can become very good at it very, very quickly.

The problem with frostfire at low gear levels is that your crit chance will be low, and a good chunk of frostfire’s damage comes from hot-streak’d pyroblasts, which only occur after two consecutive crits.  If you are only critting 30% of the time or so in raids, you’re going to have fights where you simply don’t get many consecutive crits, which will cripple your dps.

The other option is to go arcane.  Arcane has a much higher learning curve than frostfire – while the rotation is easy enough, you’ll find yourself running out of mana all the time, so you’ll need to time your evocations well and be smart with your mana gems and cooldowns.  You can check my arcane guide for all the basic information.

The main benefit of arcane at low gear levels is that it lets you put up abnormally high dps numbers at the expense of your mana pool.  Want to impress some guildies on a heroic boss?  Pop all your cooldowns right off the bat and burn through your mana in 15 seconds, then evocate and burn it again (hopefully the boss will be dead by the time you’re out of mana!). 

I recently worked on this strategy with a  friend who has a newly-80 mage alt , and after he got experience with arcane in a few heroics, he started putting up 3,500 single-target dps regularly on bosses.  That’s a huge number for someone still with quest gear! 

The problem, of course, is that you can’t really sustain this for anything longer than a standard heroic boss fight.  Once you get into raiding, arcane mages with a low gear level have to be very careful not to burn through their mana when evocation is on cooldown.  At the same time, if you’re too careful then you end up crippling your dps, so arcane definitely takes practice.

And just as a final note:  I would not go deep fire/torment of the weak with a low gear level.  That spec seems to scale extremely well with gear, meaning that it’s not a good one to start out with.  Whatever you choose, good luck and thanks for reading!

Questions and Answers: Hodir

May 5, 2009

Another question courtesy of Vanyl:

We’re doing the Hodir fight and it has caused a lot of disquiet between melee and casters (particularly warlocks/mages and the rogues/death knights). It got really intense and has had both sides seeing red.

Is it fair to say that along with say XT, that Hodir is another example of a non-caster friendly fight or is the caster group really just not doing what they need to do yet?

My first few attempts on Hodir were DISASTROUS.  Repeat:  DISASTROUS.  As in, finishing 12th or 13th in damage done.  Keep in mind that I’m someone who led the charts in about 95% of our guild’s boss fights in Naxx, and who had been in the top-5 in just about every Ulduar fight, so my first thought was that this fight just sucked for casters.

But eventually you figure it out, and it actually turns out to be a pretty sweet deal for mages.  Check out this screenshot from our Wow Web Stats damage report for the kill shot:


I’m not a tech wizard so hopefully you can see the numbers, especially the 58k arcane blast crit.  I finished #1 in total damage on the fight, and a few other casters put up strong numbers (even though melee did occupy 4 of the top 6 spots), so it’s definitely possible for casters to excel in this fight.

So with that said, here are my tips for mages on dealing with Hodir:

Important Note:  Everything written here applies to the 25-man, non-hard mode fight.  In hard mode, you don’t have the NPC’s helping you, so that changes everything.

  1. Arcane is your friend.  This fight is about movement, survivability, and RIDICULOUS, OUT-OF CONTROL BURST DPS.  You do not have time to get into any kind of frostfire rotation, because you’re going to be moving very often.  Arcane mages have always been (and still are) the absolute kings of controlled burst DPS, and this fight seems specifically tailored to them, for reasons outlined below.
  2. The NPC’s are the key to the fight, and you’ll want to take advantage of all three different kinds as much as possible.  Let’s go through them:–The Mages:  They drop toasty campfires near them, which prevent you from getting the nasty stacking frost debuff.  These little guys are key because standing near a campfire allows you to stay stationary while casting, and which tacks on a debuff to all your spell casts that gradually increases Hodir’s spell damage taken.  The campfires also break the other NPC’s out of ice, and thus freeing the NPC mages should be your guild’s first priority after every flash freeze.  It should also be YOUR first priority to make sure you’re within range of a toasty campfire.The Druids:  They create little starlight beams that, if you stand in them, will dramatically increase your haste.  Your top priority is still to stand near a campfire, but if one of these starlight beams is close enough, you definitely want to get into it.


    The Shaman:  When freed, they cast a buff on someone that increases their critical strike damage 150%, and will spread itself to the six nearest players (within 5 yards).  This is where it gets interesting:  This buff is huge for mages, but it’s also huge for every other class, and since people tend to get spread out on this fight it’s sometimes tough to get.  Our guild gave priority on this buff to melee, since they are naturally bunched together – but I was still able to wrangle a couple charges for myself in the kill shot attempt.

  3. So here’s the situation:  For most of this fight, you will be running from icicles, running to toasty fires, running into starlights, and trying to get close to someone with the shaman’s buff.  That is a heck of a lot of movement, and as we all know, movement is very bad for mages’ DPS.  So, in order to perform on this fight, you need to make your stationary time count. Once you get near a toasty fire, get into your rotation as best as possible – but save your cooldowns for when you get the serious buffs.  Remember, there might literally be a 15 second window for an arcane mage where you have:

    -Arcane Power (20% damage increase)
    -Icy Veins (20% casting speed increase)
    -Toasty Fire (all spells doing extra damage and stacking the Singed debuff)
    -Starlight (100% increased haste)
    -Storm Power (150% increased critical strike damage)

    You know what that equals?  That’s right, 58K crits!  Over and over and over again.   I mean, if that doesn’t get you excited, then what will?  Even without the cooldowns, I was still critting for a solid 40k when I got the Shaman’s Storm Power buff.

So basically, your goal on this fight is to maximize the burst damage you do while keeping yourself alive and keeping your mana pool high enough to support a crazy 15-second burst of damage.  That’s not to say that you should stop DPS’ing when you don’t have the shaman buff – you absolutely should continue with your regular rotation – but you’ve got to make the most of those rare opportunities when all three buffs are available.  Some of this is definitely luck, but proper positioning and sharp reactions are just as (or even more) important to success for a mage on Hodir.

Good luck!

Update 5/20:  I know a lot of people argue that fire/arcane is the best spec for this fight, and maybe it is, but just to prove that arcane can perform perfectly fine:


Click the picture to see a full sized version.  That’s 10K dps and 1 mil more damage than the next person!