World of Warcraft Mage DPS Guide
We Mages like to blow things up. This collection of tips, tricks and techniques should help you be more effective in end-game raids. Less QQ, more Pew Pew.
Talents & Glyphs
There are currently several specs vying for highest raid DPS (via simulationcraft):
57/3/11: Arcane with Icy Veins
- Crazy, meter-topping DPS, but requires more nuance and mana management. Good with movement and great burst damage.
- Key gylphs: Arcane Blast, Arcane Missiles, Molten Armor
- More information on Elitist Jerks Arcane Thread
- Frostfire Bolt benefits from both Frost and Fire talents. Easier on mana, but more streaky damage due to crits. Excellent for raid-wide spell damage debuff
- Key gylphs: Frostfire, Improved Scorch, Molten Armor
- More information on Elitist Jerks FFB Thread
20/51/0: Deep Fire with Torment the Weak
- Basically same gameplay as FFB spec, but using Fireball as the primary nuke with the added benefit of Torment the Weak. Requires more Spell Hit due to lack of Precision talent.
- Key gylphs: Fireball, Improved Scorch, Molten Armor
Statistics (Hit, Haste, Damage, Crit)
Understanding the nuances of these stats is key to making smart gear choices and maximizing the DPS potential of your existing pieces. You can get breakdowns of the relative values from LHivera's Theorycraft-O-Matic. Everyone's situation is a little different, but the relationship should look like this:
Hit (until cap) > Damage > Haste > Crit
Spell Damage: The amount of damage applied to a particular spell is subject to the following multiplier: (Untalented Cast Time of Spell) / 3.5. Arcane Blast and Frostfire Bolt get 80.429% of your spell damage. More Information at WoW Wiki
Hit Rating: You can't do damage if the mob is resisting your spells. Increasing your Hit Rating can now bring you up to a maximum 100% chance to land the spell. 26.23 Spell Hit Rating = 1% increased chance to hit at level 80. Points of Hit Rating are worthless above the hit cap, so you may need to swap gear depending on your raiding scenario. More Information at WoW Wiki
Haste Rating: This increases your casting speed (which is different from reducing the cast time of your spells) and shortens the global cooldown. Consequently, it will also cause you to burn through mana quicker. 32.79 Spell Haste Rating = 1% increase in casting speed at level 80, meaning your New Casting Time = Base Casting Time after Talents / (1 + (Spell Haste Rating/1570)). Haste is good in all amounts. More Information at WoW Wiki.
Crit Rating: Everyone loves critical hits. 45.91 Spell Crit Rating = 1% increased chance to crit at level 80. Arcane Mages benefit more with the Spell Power talent, while Frostfire Mages get a boost from Ignite and Ice Shards. More Information at WoW Wiki
Other stats like Spell Penetration, Intellect, and Spirit play only a minor role in DPS.
Gear, Gems & Enchants
When gemming Mage gear, always aim for gems with Hit or Spellpower, as they are the superior stats. Your hat should must have a meta gem slot, and it must be gemmed with a Chaotic Skyflare Diamond. You'll need to mix in a couple blue gems to activate the bonus.
Make sure to add a Belt Buckle for an extra gem slot!
For enchants, the choices are very straight-forward:
Head: Arcanum of Burning Mysteries, requires Revered with Kirin Tor
Shoulder: Greater Inscription of the Storm , requires Exalted with Hodir
Cloak: Lightweave Embroidery over Greater Speed
Chest: Powerful Stats
Wrist: Superior Spellpower
Hands: Exceptional Spellpower
Legs: Brilliant Spellthread, or Sanctified Spellthread for Tailors
Ring: Greater Spellpower for Enchanters
Weapon: Mighty Spellpower
Several options, each with unique benefits to Mage DPS:
Tailoring: Cheap Spellthread and Lightweave Embroidery
Enchanting: Ring Enchants
Jewelcrafting: Prismatic Gems, Twilight Serpent trinket
Engineering: DPS Hat and Hyperspeed Acceleration for gloves
Blacksmithing: Socket Gloves and Socket Bracer
Leatherworking: Fur Lining for bracers
Inscription: Master's Inscription for shoulder
Skinning: Passive Crit Buff
Alchemy: Increased Effect from Pots, Alchemist Stone trinket
Spell Choice & Rotation
DPS as an Arcane Mage is very much a balance of damage and mana. Your baseline rotation for single-target DPS is Arcane Blast x 3 to maximize the damage buff, then Arcane Missiles if Missile Barrage has proc'd, otherwise Arcane Barrage... then repeat. If you're running low on mana, you can shorten your AB stacks. See Tachyon's excellent rotation explanation for more details and Math. For AOE with more than 3 targets, you'll be using Blizzard, preferably with a damage modifier of some kind to maximize damage (Arcane Power, Icy Veins, trinket, etc.)
As Frostfire Mage, you'll always keep the Scorch debuff up and a Living Bomb ticking, and you'll immediately cast a Pyroblast when Hot Streak procs. Otherwise, you'll be spamming Frostfire Bolt. For AoE, you'll again keep Living Bomb ticking, then use a top-rank Flamestrike, Flamestrike (Rank 8), Blizzard rotation in order to take full advantage of the ground dot (which will stack with different ranks of Flamestrike).
Buffs & Consumables
Class composition is also important to raid DPS. Here are several buffs you should be aware of: Moonkin Aura, Totem of Wrath, Wrath of Air Totem, Heroism (or Bloodlust), Heroic Presence, Curse of Elements, Earth and Moon, Ebon Plaguebringer, Misery, Power Infusion, and the Troll racial: Berserking.
In a raid, you should generally have 2 consumables active: flask/elixir and food.
Flasks are relatively expensive, but persist through death: Flask of the Frost Wyrm. If you're strapped for cash, you can substitute a Battle Elixir: Spellpower Elixir, which is obviously not as good and you'll lose the buff if you die.
Food buffs from several tasty snacks will increase Spell Damage by 46 for 30 minutes.
Destruction Potions, Potions of Speed and Haste Potions are excellent for quick bursts, but often considered too expensive to use outside of a special attempt. Flame Caps also stack, but share a cooldown with Mana Gems. There are also a few other options.
The key to Arcane DPS is making sure you only run out of mana once — at the end of the fight. With the Arcane Flows talent, you can replenish almost your whole mana bar via Evocation every 2 minutes, but at a loss of up to 8 seconds of DPS time.
Use your Mana Gems as early and often as possible (don't wait until you're running low), and get your 2-piece Improved Manage Gems bonus as soon as possible. Supplement with a mana pot as necessary, but note that you can only use one.
Being grouped with certain classes can also do a lot for mana management, like having a Survival Hunter, Retribution Paladin or Shadow Priest for Replenishment, a Frost Mage for Enduring Winter, or a Shaman for a Mana Spring Totem. Having a Paladin apply Judgement of Wisdom is also a big boost.-->
Threat & Staying Alive
Mages are fragile, and you can't DPS when you're dead. With the new itemization in WotLK, a raiding Mage doesn't need to think about Stamina (you'll find it loaded on almost all gear). Just use a Healthstone or a pot if your health gets low (bandaging eats into your DPS time), and don't pull aggro.
Use Omen to make sure you don't surpass the tank on the hate list. Outside of melee range, you need 130% threat of the tank to pull aggro, which is much harder to do these days, especially with threat-reduction talents like Arcane Subtlety and Burning Soul.
Mages have both an aggro-dumping ability and an aggro deferral. Invisibility eliminates 10% of your threat each second, with a full wipe after the 5 second fade — making it useful even without waiting the full period. Mirror Image essentially gives you a passive aura that deducts 4 million threat for as long as your clones are up. The 4 million will be added back, so this is most useful in cases where you need to give the tank some time to catch up.
Don't forget to keep Ice Block bound to a key in case you do pull aggro.
Knowledge of Encounters (RTFM)
You'll be able to squeeze in more and more damage as you become familiar with each encounter and get a better handle on your role. Make sure you're prepared. Knowing when to start AOEing, or pop trinkets, or switch targets can do a lot to increase your DPS.
Most raids require it anyway, but install an add-on like DeadlyBoss Mods. The timers and alerts will make all the encounters much easier. For strategies, check out Boss Killers, World of Strats, or run searches on YouTube for demo videos.
ABC: Always Be Casting. Commonly referred to as the "skill" component, this is the difference between a good and great DPS: paying attention and maximizing the time you're actually casting rather than looking around, switching targets, deciding which button to click, or repositioning in fights requiring movement.
Your mouse is slower than your keyboard. Bind your most used abilities, and use Tab and Shift-Tab to switch targets. The mouse should be used for turning, and leisurely clicks while you're waiting for the global cooldown. Developing interface quickness will also serve you well in PVP.
Latency is the lag time that exists between you and the server, and minimizing it and its effects can greatly impact your DPS. If you're lucky your latency is around 200ms, which means that instead of getting off a Fireball every 3 seconds, it's really more like every 3.2 seconds. You can mitigate this with the Quartz add-on, which will replace your casting bar with one that also displays latency. The section at the end of the bar is like a DPS tax, which can be avoided by mashing your cast button as you approach the red section to ensure your spell queues as soon as possible.
Practicing intelligent cooldown management, is a huge part of Mage DPS. When considering when to use your trinkets and abilities, keep these things in mind:
- Get as many uses as possible — Pop early in the encounter to increase the chance of additional uses
- Take advantage of multiplicative synergies — Stacking most trinkets is better than popping them separately
Creating Macros to save you clicks when activating trinkets and/or abilities is another great way to increase DPS. No matter how quick you are with a keystroke or mouse click, this method is faster. I have several of these for various scenarios. Here's a simple example:
/cast Icy Veins
/cast Arcane Power
/cast Arcane Blast
Control Freak is more of a utility add-on. It allows you to set a mob as your focus for sheeping, then resheep it later without targeting it. Not having to change your target is hugely convenient and will improve your DPS on fights where you're on crowd control duty.
To help illustrate the above points, here's a simple tank-and-spank example (like Patchwerk — no movement, AoE, aggro-wipes or other complications) from an Arcane Mage point of view.
Beforehand, you make sure you're fully buffed (food, flask, buffs, etc.). You've read up on the strategy, and know where to position yourself and what to expect from each phase.
Your priorities in a fight this simple are:
- Don't pull aggro
- Don't die
- Don't run out of mana
- DPS as hard as you can
The tank runs in and starts building up aggro. You immediately pop Mirror Image to defer threat (plus a minor DPS boost) and begin with your baseline rotation. ABx3, AM, ABarr. You then use your OMGWTFBBQ macro to simultaneously use a trinket, activate Ivy Veins and Arcane Power, and cast Arcane Blast — all with a single click. It's important to use these abilities early on so that you'll get a second/third use before the end of the encounter. By the time your images fade, the tank should have well surpassed your threat. You continue with your rotation.
Once your mana pool is down about 7k, you use a Mana Gem, boosting you back to near full and giving you a damage buff. You continue with your rotation.
You're burning through mana too quickly, so you change your rotation to use only 2 stacks of AB. As your pool gets close to empty, you use Evocation. Rinse and repeat until the boss drops. If you find yourself with extra mana towards the end of the fight, spam AB — full-stacked, it's your highest DPS spell.
Analyzing your Progress
As with anything, the key to progress from n00b to l33t is continuously looking for places to improve. Recount and Wow Web Stats are useful tools to let you compare and analyze your DPS and look for weaknesses to work on.
For testing out new techniques, macros, gear, etc. it's also handy to nuke the practice dummies in your nearest capital city. I use the ones in the Military Ward of Ironforge.
Useful Sites / Threads
Warcrafter - Gear Comparison Sandbox