Tachyon's PvE Arcane Mage Guide
by Tachyon on Sat. 10. October 2009, 00:29
Filed under: arcane, guide, talents, featured
Why is arcane so popular these day? It's not only due to the fact that since patch 3.2.2 it can compete with fire specs again, but also most mages seem to prefer arcane over fire due to the proactive playstyle which is both more challenging and more fun.
Fire mages are forced into a very reactive play style. They know exactly which spells to cast when, as the normal cycle (chaincast Fireball) is only disrupted when debuffs expire (Living Bomb or Scorch, reaction: reapply) or a Hot Streak proc occurs (reaction: use an instant Pyro as your next spell). This results in a more or less steady mana burn rate, so you just cast and hope you never go out of mana. You'll find yourself with a half full mana pool on the end of a fight, knowing that this mana was just wasted.
Arcane, on the other hand, has 3 cooldown abilities at hand (Arcane Power, Icy Veins, Presence of Mind) which allow for burst damage when the mage requests it. Not only that, but arcane mages have multiple cast cycles with varying DPS and DPM, so they can adapt their casting strategy on the fly to optimize their actions for any situation. That's what proactive casting is about, looking ahead and planning how to play to live up to the full potential. In this ability to adapt lies the arcane mage's greatest potential to do extraordinary damage.
This is a guide for effectively playing an arcane mage in a PvE (Player vs. Environment) raid scenario. It's not a beginner's mage guide as it implies you already know how to play a mage in general, so I'm not going to explain core mage concepts and spells for the leveling folk or the lazy buggers who bought their mages on Ebay or inherited a friend's account. This guide also doesn't cover how to play an arcane mage in PvP, sorry.
But if you've just switched to arcane for the first time, rerolled arcane now it's up to par with fire specs again or if you're already playing arcane and want to make sure you didn't miss an aspect or two, this guide is for YOU!
Oh, and /cheers to my friend and co-worker Elrydion on EU-Malygos who just hit 80 some weeks ago with his mage and for whom I wrote this guide!
Core Spec: 53/3/11, 4 points left to spend
This spec stub contains all the important talents needed for an arcane spec. I even dare say that any arcane spec which isn't based on that stub is suboptimal.
Most arcane specs are derived from this core spec, here's some of them:
Max. range, max. intellect, Slow and max. Blizzard crits.
This is the spec I recommend to any new arcane mage, as it performs well in any scenario, be it hardmodes, normal modes or 5men / solo. It's also the arcane spec with the highest AoE damage thanks to the additional point in frost.
Classic Spec: 57/3/11
Optimized on single targets, with Slow.
That's the classic out-of-the box spec you'll see in any other arcane guide. Nothing bad about it, has a negligibly small bonus to single target damage (+3% spirit, which gives a little more crit), and does less AoE damage the the allround spec.
I personally wouldn't recommend this spec to anyone, better go for the allround spec instead.
Spirit Spec: 57/3/11
10% more spirit, but on the cost of not having the max. range for arcane spells. 3 points for ~1% crit is rather expensive.
Incanter's Absorption Spec: 57/3/11
2/3 points into incanter's absorption, no Slow.
This is a spec for more experienced arcane mage who want to toy around with Incanter's Absorption to squeeze a little more spellpower from absorbed magical damage (only complete absorbs count, make sure to use your frost/fire ward where appropriate). The benefit of this spec is very situational (a lot of bosses do fire/frost damage, but you need to know in advance when to expect it and cast your ward, which costs a global cooldown), but in some encounters, like Twin Val'kyrs, it can do devastating damage.
For arcane mages, there is exactly one set of glyphs that makes sense:
Glyph of Arcane Blast
Increases the damage from your Arcane Blast buff by 3%.
This increases the damage done with your next arcane spell by 15% + 3% = 18% per stack, so instead of an 15/30/45/60% increase you get 18/36/54/72%.
Glyph of Arcane Missiles
Increases the critical strike damage bonus of Arcane Missiles by 25%.
Glyph of Molten Armor
Your Molten Armor grants an additional 20% of your spirit as critical strike rating.
As a PvE mage, Molten Armor is the only armor you'll ever use. Molten Armor grants you 35% of your spirit as crit rating, or 55% with this glyph, or 70% with the glyph and the 2pT9 bonus
Glyph of Slow Fall
Your Slow Fall spell no longer requires a reagent.
Glyph of Fire Ward
You have an additional 5% chance to reflect Fire spells while your Fire Ward is active.
Glyph of Frost Ward
You have an additional 5% chance to reflect Frost spells while your Frost Ward is active.
As with any mage spec, your primary focus should be getting hit capped.
Your base chance to hit a boss is 83%, and you get 6% + Hit from talents, and 3% from Misery or Improved Faerie Fire in a raid. That leaves 8% (210 Hit Rating) or 7% (184 Hit Rating) (if you're Alliance and got a squid faced space goat in your raid) until you're hit capped.
Apart from Hit Rating, Spellpower and Haste Rating are your most important stats. Arane doesn't benefit that much from Crit Rating, as the crit multipliers are rather low (compared to fire and frostfire).
Haste rating has soft caps, as you cannot cast more than one spell per second (when the cast time is lower, you enter the global cooldown util the next spell is ready 1sec after you cast the last). As an arcane mage, your spell rotation only consists of Arcane Blast and Missile Barrage AM, which both have a 2.5 sec cast time.
If you combine the 6% haste from talents with the 3% haste in a raid environment (from Swift Retribution or Improved Moonkin Form ), and stack Icy Veins (20% haste) and Bloodlust/Heroism (30% haste) on top of that, you end up with a 70.3208% haste peak (haste stacks multiplicatively). With 1% haste per 32.79 haste rating, you'd need (2.5 / 1.703208 - 1) * 3279 = 1534 Haste Rating to reach the haste peak soft cap. You'd still improve your DPS outside haste peaks, but it's worth lesser and lesser until you reach the hard cap at 4229 haste rating, where not even Icy Veins or Blood Lust/Heroism will be able to further hasten your cast time.
Hit Rating (until cap) > Spellpower ~= Haste Rating > Crit Rating > Spirit ~= Intellect.
The chart below shows the % DPS increase per unit stat once you reach the hit cap (raid buffs applied, the chart doesn't vary that much depending on your gear):
The easiest way to do gear planning is to use a stats ranking site. Stats ranking works as follows: you assign a weight for each stat to define how valuable it is for you, and let the ranking site then calculate the item value for all possible items (sum of the weighted stats on each item).
I usually use the spellpower equivalent values for each stat as a weight, with the exception of hit rating which just gets a fixed value assigned (more hit rating is no benefit, but losing hit rating will at least have a tradeoff cost if you're not much overcapped). My weights are:
Spell Power = 1, Hit Rating = 0.2, Haste Rating = 0.98, Crit Rating = 0.53, Intellect = 0.37, Spirit = 0.35
My favourite loot ranking site was lootrank.com, which was merged with GuildOx some weeks ago.
When applying the weights above in GuildOx, you get the following loot rank list:
Arcane Mage Loot List (hit cappped, all instances).
Use this as a starting point, check or uncheck the raid instances and professions (BoP crafted items) you have access too, and adapt the weights where necessary.
The choice of gems is pretty much dictated by the weights of the stats. Best choice is of course the pure +spellpower gems. Carefully consider how much benefit you get from the socket boni, and decide if it's worth to discard them and putting just red spellpower gems into the sockets.
- Meta socket:
Chaotic Skyflare Diamond
+21 Critical Strike Rating and 3% Increased Critical Damage, requires at least 2 Blue gems
This is the non-plus-ultra meta gem for any mage spec. The critical strikes of your spells gain 3% more damage before any talent is applied, so this is a significant boost for your DPS. Rule of thumb is that it's worth about 200 spell power.
- Red socket:
Runed Cardinal Ruby (red)
+23 Spell Power
- Yellow socket:
Reckless Ametrine (orange)
+12 spell power and +10 haste
- Blue socket:
Purified Dreadstone (purple)
+12 Spell Power and +10 Spirit
In order to activate the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond meta gem, you need two blue gems (2x Purified Dreadstone). Try placing them into blue sockets if possible, and then decide which yellow sockets you want to fill with Reckless Ametrines (only if the socket bonus is worth it). Fill the rest of the sockets with Runed Cardinal Rubies, regardless of their color.
Oh, and make sure to not forget to add an Eternal Belt Buckle to your belt.
- Weapon (1H Sword/Dagger):
Mighty Spellpower -> 63 spellpower or
Black Magic -> 35% chance on cast to proc 250 haste for 10 seconds, 30sec internal cooldown.
- Weapon (2H Staff): Greater Spellpower
-> 81 spellpower
- Head: Arcanum of Burning Mysteries
-> 30 spellpower, 20 crit rating
- Shoulder: Greater Inscription of the Storm
-> 25 spellpower, 15 crit rating
- Chest: Powerful Stats
-> 10 to all stats
- Legs: Brilliant Spellthread
-> 50 spellpower, 20 spirit
- Hand: Exceptional Spellpower
-> 28 spellpower
Icewalker -> 12 hit rating, 12 crit rating (if you're not overcapped with hit), or
Greater Spirit -> 18 spirit, or
Tuskarr's Vitality -> minor movement speed increase and 15 Stamina.
I recommend Tuskarr's Vitality as it's optimal for movement fights in ICC content
- Wrist: Superior Spellpower
-> 30 spellpower
- Back: Greater Speed
-> 23 haste rating
...plus any profession specific enchantments (e.g. rings, Lightweave Embroidery on your cloak).
For a quick enchantment check, go to be.imba.hu. This site checks if you already got the recommended enchantments, and which enchantments are recommended for each slot.
If you haven't read my article on the 3.2.2 spell rotations, you might want to read it in a calm minute. Here's the extract of the spell rotations that make up your casting arsenal:
Single target rotations:
- Standard DPS Rotation:
Spam Arcane Blast, use Missile Barrage when it procs and AB is fully stacked (4 stacks).
Use: standard rotation as long as you can keep your mana up.
- Optimal DPS/DPM Rotation:
Spam Arcane Blast, use Missile Barrage as soon as it procs
Use: on long fights or if you get low on mana, until you can evocate.
- Mana Recovery Rotation:
Spam Arcane Blast, use Missile Barrage as soon as it procs. If no procs occur after 2..4 AB stacks, clear the stack with Arcane Barrage.
Use: when you really start to run out of mana. The rotation can be kept up pretty much forever
- Burst Rotation:
Spam Arcane Blast, disregard any Missile Barrage procs.
Use: on burst phases (Arcane Power, Icy Veins or Bloodlust/Heroism) or when the raid is requested to do insane DPS for a short time, or when you can afford to burn the mana (before Evocation comes off cooldown)
Arcane, especially the variant with 12 points in frost, is the spec with the highest burst AoE (Area of Effect) damage. You're verly likely to draw aggro if you dont start carefully. A good advice is to take your your Mirror Images before starting to bomb, so your initial aggro is split up on you and your images which prevents you from surpassing the tank in the aggro list on the first few seconds.
Casting Flamestrike every 8 seconds is a good idea, as it adds a nice little DoT to your AoE targets. Note that each rank of Flamestrike (FS) has its own DoT component, so whilst 2 subsequent FS Rank 9 won't stack, FS Rank 8 + 9 will (you could even stack rank 9+8+7+6+..., but due to the penalty the lower ranks get, this is not advisable)
- cast Mirror Images
- (Presence of Mind)
- Flamestrike Rank 9
- Flamestrike Rank 8
- Pop trinkets, activate Arcane Power and Icy Veins
- Spam Blizzard, reapply Flamesstrike Rank 9+8 as soon as the DoT expires, rinse and repeat.
Arcane is a very proactive mage spec, which not only lets you vary your cast cycles on the fly, but also has a number of cooldown abilities which boost your DPS for a short time.
- Arcane Power (AP)
2 min cooldown, with talents: 1 min 24 sec
When activated, your spells deal 20% more damage while costing 20% more mana to cast. This effect lasts 15 sec.
- Icy Veins (IV)
3 min cooldown, with talents: 2 min 24 sec
Hastens your spellcasting, increasing spell casting speed by 20% and reduces the pushback suffered from damaging attacks while casting by 100%. Lasts 20 sec.
- Presence of Mind (PoM)
2 min cooldown, with talents: 1 min 24 sec
When activated, your next Mage spell becomes an instant cast spell.
+ Arcane Potency (2/2): Increases the critical strike chance of your next damaging spell by 30% after gaining Clearcasting or Presence of Mind.
Use your cooldown abilities whenever available, preferrably during Bloodlust/Heroism. PoM gives the next spell a +30% crit chance, so this is best used when your next spell does high damage, hence you want to use a PoM-AB when your AB stack is full for the highest bang for the buck.
You should wait some seconds into an encounter before popping your cooldowns, as you rely on raid debuffs on the target and want to give your tank a head start building aggro.
Initial burst sequence on the start of an encounter (all cooldowns ready):
- Mirror Image (to split your initial aggro)
- 4x Arcane Blast
- Use any trinkets that can be activated
- Presence of Mind, Arcane Blast (instant)
- Arcane Power + Icy Veins (make a macro)
- Arcane Blast spam until Icy Veins fades
- Use Invisibility if necessary before your mirror images fade
Burst damage macro
This macro activates Arcane Power, Icy Veins, Trinkets and your Mirror Images at once (unless the ability is on cooldown, of course). Mirror Images should only be included when you have the 4xT10 bonus, otherwise I think it's better to activate them separately. The numbers 13 and 14 refer to your trinket slots, you can adapt the macro to only use the slot which contains an 'on use' trinket.
/cast Icy Veins
/cast Arcane Power
/cast Mirror Image
Tips & Tricks
Evocation is ready every 2 minutes, but takes 8 seconds to cast (before haste is applied).
If you'd use it every 2 minutes, you'd be casting for 112 seconds and evocating for 8 seconds every 120 seconds. That's a significant loss, and to compensate for that you would need 120/112-1 = 7.15% additional haste, or 233.5 haste rating.
Arcane Blast spam gives you only 2% more DPS than the standard rotation (AB until MBarr, use at 4 AB stacks), but costs almost 60% more mana, so unless the encounter has idle phases which allow to use Evocation, you'd better not chaincast AB but rather preserve your mana so you don't have to evocate that often.
If you have to use Evocation, the best time to do it is on the last second of Heroism/Bloodlust/Icy Veins (the cast time is determined upon the start, so you can prolong the effect of those haste buffs).
Both Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles have a range of 30y. With the Magic Attunement talent, you can and should increase your range by 3/6y.
I know it's very tempting to skip this talent partially or completely and invest the points somewhere else, but I highly recommend to spend those 2 points there.
3/6y may not seem that much, but it's not the range that is important but the size of the area given by that range (3y -> 21% more area, 6y -> 44% more area). The larger the area is, the more likely you won't have to move to get something in casting range, which is very important for fights on which you have to spread out or when the boss is moving or spawns adds. Moving will hurt your DPS badly, so whilst range does not increase your DPS, it can save you from losing DPS.
Faster casting tricks
The matra for high damage is ABC: Always Be Casting. Any second you aren't casting is lost damage. Move only when necessary, and if you have to move use Arcane Barrage before your AB stack expires.
But also when you don't move, you're still losing time between your casts due to the latency between your computer and the WoW server. It's only a few dozen or hundred milliseconds, but boy does that add up quickly! Here's some tricks how to reduce the idle time between spells:
- Be aware of lag gaps between your spells, and minimize them by all means:
Find out how to optimize your TCP connection for WoW. Bandwith doesn't matter, it's the response time that matters. Use Leatrix Latency Fix (or edit the Windows registry yourself) to set the TCP Acknowledge Frequency to 1 (ACK on each TCP packet), that will reduce your ping significantly.
- Use Quarz or any other cast bar addon that shows the last latency measured. You can start casting the next spell as soon as the casting bar enters the latency area (when it does, the spell is supposed to be finished on the server, only your UI does not know about it yet due to the latency). It's rumored that even when you start a little too early casting the next spell it won't be lost but queued on the server, so you theoretically can do seamless chaincasting.
- Don't mash the buttons. Klicking a keyboard button fires two events: pressed and released. Be aware that spell casting starts on the 'released' event. Pressing and releasing costs time (about 70-80 ms if you're fast), so when chaincasting press and hold the button in advance, so you only have to release it for the next cast.
Snowfall KeyPress addon can help you casting faster, what it does is to trigger spells on KEY_PRESS instead of KEY_RELEASE events. Give it a try, you'll love it.
Reading this guide while on a rollercoaster may cause dizzyness or motion sickness. Contents of this guide may settle during shipping. No gnomes were harmed during the production of this guide. Guide is written using 100% recycled electrons. May contain traces of peanuts, see details on reverse side.
If you think this guide is missing something important, or if you think you found a mistake, please tell me in the comments so I can keep this guide up-to-date, thanks!