Mage builds

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This article is meant to list theorycrafted raiding builds, cookie-cutter PvP specs and other mage standards/ideas for reference and new player guidance.

For help creating your own build and personalising the ones found here, take a look at our mage talent analysis.

PvE

Leveling frost

Frost is far and wide considered the best mage leveling tree due to four factors: its mana-efficiency, high survivability, control, and high burst damage.

A basic level 30 leveling build is leveling frost. Your very first talent should always be [Improved Frostbolt] if frost.

Check the mage talent analysis to improve upon it when leveling further. Remember to always pick up 1-point talents such as [Ice Barrier] and [Cold Snap] when available.

Certain points of interest:

  • The frost mage's main spell is [Frostbolt]. It is your opener, your nuke, your chill. Learn to love it. [Improved Frostbolt] is a must-have to increase mobility when soloing.
  • [Shatter] is a necessary talent for optimal frost leveling. Used with [Frost Nova], you have a very high chance to critically strike your opponents. Fire Blasting mobs who are frozen is a quick and mobile way to deal burst damage or finish them off.
  • [Ice Shards] increases damage done by frost spell critical strikes, which is a good boost to [Shatter]'s power. If you want higher raw damage while retaining frost's control, you can always pick up [Piercing Ice].
  • [Frost Nova] is your friend. Frost doesn't do as much damage as fire and relies on keeping mobs away with chills and such tools, so talents like [Arctic Reach] and [Ice Floes] that increase their effectiveness are valuable.
  • Precision is not required, but it helps when soloing mobs of a higher level then yourself. It also reduces downtime slightly.
  • [Frost Channeling] improves mana-efficiency a great deal, making drinking between pulls less necessary.
  • [Brain Freeze] and [Fingers of Frost] help increase burst damage, and changes the otherwise monotonous Frostbolt spamming.

If you play as a raider and a group player then this tree is suited for you.

Leveling between levels 25-40 as a frost (or fire) mage is a tedious excercise. Essentially the issue is mana usage vs your mana pool. Generally 2-3 opponents can be killed before mana is low and must be replenished. Engaging more than 2 opponents at once is highly risky as only one can be side-lined with [Polymorph]. There is no 'ultimate' talent build for a solo mage to avoid the tedium of these levels. Any recommended talent build in these levels will boil down to the fundamental lack of a large mana pool, health pool, and control abilities.

The frost mage can AoE opponents using [Blizzard] in limited locations; however the lack of [Ice Barrier] (until level 40) and [Ice Block] (until Level 30) mean that imperfect play will result in many deaths. [Cold Snap] will need to be used so frequently that the mage will often feel compelled to wait out the cooldown. Even with these abilities, the amount of experienced gained per engagement is simply not worth the downtime to recover from either death or mana/health restoration.

After level 40, the frost mage begins to shine. The mana pool with easily obtainable gear and mana efficiency steadily increases. Coupled with new abilities like [Ice Barrier] at Level 40 and [Summon Water Elemental] at Level 50 (be sure to get the  [Glyph of Eternal Water] as well), the frost mage can now survive 3 or 4 opponents at once, if necessary. With the Glyphed Water Elemental pet, the frost mage can solo 8-12 similar level opponents in a row before running low on mana. With a particularly difficult opponent, the Water Elemental can be used to take damage until the frost mage feels ready to pull it off the pet. Finally, with careful usage of [Evocation], downtime is minimal at worst.

One last note: Most mage players at level 80 leveled under different revisions of the game. Most advice available about talent builds are end-game builds and related to raiding or PvP. As such, review patch changes and make talent decisions based on the current state of the game. Don't assume that what worked well for a mage one or two years ago is true today! Suggested frost talent progression from level 10 to 59: 11, 21, 31, 41, 51.

This build progression assumes the mage is going to solo the majority of the time. When dual spec becomes available it is advisable to create a talent build for the secondary spec that is group oriented.

Leveling as fire

The Fire tree lacks the control and survivability of frost, but has in exchange higher single-target damage and the ability to kill mobs faster one by one. It sacrifices mana-utility for higher power. A basic fire leveling build at 30 would be the following: fire leveling.

For further improvement when leveling, see the mage talent analysis. Your very first talent should always be [Improved Fireball] if fire.

Fire relies on critical strikes to maximize its damage, so taking talents such as [Critical Mass] and [Pyromaniac] is useful. [Burnout] and [Ignite] increase your crit damage by a lot, so it is imperative that you fill them out when possible. Always pick up 1-point talents ( [Combustion], [Dragon's Breath]) as soon as they become available. If you play with a glass cannon approach then this is probably for you.

Leveling as arcane

The arcane tree focuses on mana conservation. It does not have the high damage of frost or fire but has higher control than even frost. If you play a defensive, conservative style then this would probably suit you. This has a focus on grouping and is difficult to solo with because of its low damage when compared to the other two trees.

5-mans and soloing/farming

This section deals with a less objective matter and is very subject to personal bias and custom builds.

  • 14/57/0 Fire 5-Mans/Suicide Aoe Build
    • This build is often looked over as most casters never journey into the depths of the melee reigon, but it should be noted that this build has a lot to offer. Although fire isn't known to be mana efficient, this spec has pulls where you spend almost less than 2000 mana per pull, with a lot of burst damage. Rotation goes like this; [Living Bomb] on every monster, then run into the fray, [Dragon's Breath], Instant [Flamestrike], Blastwave, another instant [Flamestrike] and then run out with flameblast and instant Pyroblasts. Although this build does pull a lot of threat, if you do forget to spec into [Burning Soul] you may have a few threat problems.
  • 0/45/18 Fire 70-80 solo/5-man Build
    • This build is unconventional as it does not reach the 51 point talent at level 70. As well, it does not have the [Improved Blizzard] AoE tactics available (though I've found Northrend has few opportunities for it), nor frost's survivability. What it does have is a combo that brings down just about anything, making single mob fights short and sweet. Open with an Frostfire Bolt (FFB; or use a Frostbolt if you are less than level 75 and haven't got FFB yet) and Scorch (or Fireball/FFB) until in melee range. Frost Nova the monster, step out of melee range, then cast FFB/(Fireball when < 75), chained with a Fireblast. If both crit from [Shatter], you will then have an instant [Pyroblast] provided by [Hot Streak]. Almost any even level mob will then be dead, with maybe one more Scorch needed for good measure. If you do not get the required two crits, just use [Dragon's Breath] and FFB/Fireball it down.

Raiding

The builds listed here come from theorycrafting and are listed in this page. Editors might want to refrain from submitting untested user-created builds, encounter-specific builds or small modifications of the listed builds.

Raiding mages generally want high single target DPS and/or lots of AoE power. Depending on your gear, length of the fight, movement, trash clearing, and interruptions, there's no real "perfect" raiding build. These are the standard builds for each school and how casting works to maximize DPS.

For the sake of standardization, mostly only core talents are contained in the builds and extra talent points are available in some cases. This allows for customizing, which is encouraged when looking at different encounters with different mechanics or different personal preferences.

Arcane

  • Arcane mages are the overwhelming mage build in raids as of 3.3.5. This is because the arcane spec provides high damage and a simple rotation. When standing still and in a simulator, arcane is currently the highest dps output of the mage class.[1]. However, this high damage is heavily compromised by movement: a well-played fire mage does higher dps in real-world raids on heroic or 25-player mode.[2]
  • (50/3/11 +7) Arcane/frost
    • Only bare essential points are taken in this build, so as to provide the most customizable build possible. Certain talents have no objective effect on DPS, such as Magic Attunement, but are useful in other ways and a good investment of remaining points. [Magic Attunement] and [Arcane Stability] protect DPS in less measurable ways, for instance, by reducing spell pushback from certain encounter mechanics, and [Arcane Barrage] is a useful mobile DPS spell, if not the best stationary damage spell.
    • With changes in Patch 3.0.8, arcane has once again become a viable spec for single-target DPS. Talents like [Arcane Power] make it far more flexible than Frostfire Bolt specs, as DPS can be raised and lowered at the cost of mana efficiency, dependent on the situation. Your rotations should be [Arcane Blast] 1, 2 or 3 times, depending on the length of the fight and your MP5, and [Arcane Missiles] after the Arcane Blasts, regardless of whether Missile Barrage procs or not. Use [Presence of Mind] at your own preference. At least 8 points are taken in frost for Precision, providing a 289 hitcap for arcane spells. Going deeper in frost for [Icy Veins] and into fire for [Incineration] increase overall DPS, though points can be spent otherwise to adjust for your own play style.
    • With further changes in WotLK, arcane is cited as being the best DPS spec for mages. A few of the best mages prefer fire as they've grown into the spec through TBC and early WotLK and as of 3.3.3 are able to put up on average the same amount of DPS as arcane mages.

A good use for Icy Veins is to use it before casting your Evocation spell to avoid it being interrupted or shortened by damage. Other uses for Icy Veins may work as well with adding haste to your casting of Arcane Missiles and Arcane Blast to increase DPS at your leisure. If mana becomes intensive, the best rotation to save your mana for your Evocation cooldown would be 1 Arcane Blast followed by 1 Arcane Missles constantly. Depending on how much mana and time left on your Evocation or Mana Gem cooldowns during long boss fights, you may add in a few more Arcane Blasts or Arcane Barrages to your rotation. Keep in mind to always time your rotations to your cooldowns so that when you do run out of mana, you will have your Evocation/Mana Gems to use.

Fire

  • Fire is not highly popular as of 3.3.5, but the best fire mages can do better dps than arcane mages in real-world fights on heroic or 25-player mode due to arcane's movement penalty. (See arcane build section for citations.)
  • (0/51/18 +2) Frostfire Bolt (FFB) build
    • This build is PvE-competitive because of the early frost DPS talents and the powerful crit modifier it gives to Frostfire Bolt. This build is based on [Frostfire Bolt], and is classified as fire rather than elementalist for its steep expenditure into the fire tree, while the frost investment is puny in comparison, making it in reality a deep fire build. The rotation in this tree is exactly like the one in the above Fireball build, except replacing Fireball with Frostfire Bolt and using Living Bomb at all times. Frostfire Bolt is highly mana-efficient and has been shown to compete excellently with the Fireball build above in terms of DPS. Although Frostfire Bolt normally hits for less than Fireball, it crits hit much harder due to the number of modifiers and talents which activate on a critical hit: [Burnout], [Ice Shards] and [Ignite], all of which are absolutely mandatory. Note that unlike Fireball/TTW, Combustion is absolutely mandatory because of this.

Frost

  • (20/0/50) Deep Frost & Torment the Weak 3.3.5
    • This is the top rated Frost Dungeon/Raiding build so far for WOLK with High burst and high mana efficiency. You don't see many people with it but it is still highly used among some. The build is based off of high amounts of Haste and Crit, Which will proc [Fingers of Frost] and [Brain Freeze] (You can use [Fireball] but it’s preferred to use [Frostfire Bolt] since the build is heavily set on frost).  [Glyph of Water Elemental] ,  [Glyph of Frostbolt], and  [Glyph of Molten Armor] will be used for the most damage output. You can jump one talent point in between [Improved Blizzard], [Cold as Ice] and [Ice Barrier] depending on your play style. The one point in Improved Blizzard is used to increase your DPS on Mobs and proc both FOF and BF. Your one point in Ice Barrier is just in case you need to mitigate damage in a fight or uninterrupted spell casting. You can remove a point from the two stated before and place it in Cold as Ice to reduce the cool down of Cold Snap. This tend to be used more by heavy Raider’s who want more Damage output on boss fight’s by renewing the Icy Veins with Cold Snap.
  • (18/0/53) Deep Frost & Torment the Weak (TTW)
    • This build uses DPS cooldowns for maximum benefit, which means as often as possible for boss fights with no "burn periods", but also means saving cooldowns for when the boss is vulnerable and DPS needs to increase. Blizzard has admitted that frost is currently low on raid DPS and it remains that way even after a minor buff in patch 3.3. If no one else in your raid provides [Replenishment], Frost is the way to go, but other classes can provide that buff at little or no DPS loss to themselves.
  • (24/0/47) Deep Frost & Torment the Weak (TTW)
    • This build uses the best dps and mana preservation talents for lasting boss fights. Moves, such as "Cold as Ice" are not needed, as there is a glyph allowing water elemental to stay out at all times. If someone else in the group has a replenishment skill, then "Enduring winter" can be switched out for other talents such as "Arcane mind" for a slightly larger mana pool.

PvP

Note that PvP playstyle is a very personal matter, and these builds exist merely to exemplify and direct new or learning players at solid standard starters.

Frost

  • (20/0/51) Frost + TTW
    • An arena standard, this frost build has not only the most survivability, but also has the most burst potential frost can achieve through Deep Freeze and Brain Freeze, boosted by Torment the Weak. Improved Counterspell is also obtained, as are most utility frost talents. It also includes Magic Absorption, Arcane Fortitude, and Magic Attunement for added defenses. With this, you can switch between Ice and Mage Armor as situations require. Some mages that group with other casters may prefer to drop a single point from Spell Impact to pick up Focus Magic. It is also advised to attain around 11% haste, to be able to get off the very lethal Deep Freeze + FB + IL + IL combo.
  • (20/0/51) Frost + TTW + Nuke&Surv
    • This build is redesigned by the base build Frost + TTW entirely for arena. This build has the most survivability as the base build, but with a difference: some talents were removed to prefer some useful arena ones. With the most survivability, this build offers the most high damage with talents like Arctic Winds that were removed in the base build. It has Improved Counterspell, Torment the Weak, Deep Freeze and 2/3 Brain Freeze.
  • (28/0/43) Frost w/Prismatic Cloak
    • The 'Frismatic' build combines the survivability and utility of frost with Prismatic Cloak and Presence of Mind. The frost part of the build can be customized as necessary to obtain specific talents such as [Permafrost].

Arcane

  • This spec is meant for those who have more experience with the arcane tree. You will rely more on your arcane spells, mostly not [PoM + Pyroblast] but more on [PoM + Arcane Blast] its a spec that works well in PvP. Also great versus paladins. Keep in mind some people seem to not have noticed that impact is not only for fire. It works globally now.
  • This spec utilizes crit damage modifiers (similar to the Frostfire Bolt PvE spec above) but instead of using fire as it's base, it optimizes the PvP power of arcane. Uses the root and snare mechanics to minimize enemy mobility while using Shatter, Spell Power, and Torment the Weak to provide large crits. Great for high burst damage. Updated for 3.2 to incorporate Permafrost's new anti-healing effect.
  • Combines the power of the 3 minute mage spec, and adds impact for a stun, and world in flames for a better crit chance.


  • Very nice kiting spec with plenty of instant casts for mobility. Very powerful.

Fire

  • (17/54/0) Fire PvP
    • This is a cookie cutter fire PvP spec. It is very RNG dependent and has no main nuke. There are many tactics to playing this build. These include, rapid Scorches to proc a Hot Streak, using Dragons Breath to get off a Frostfire Bolt (damage + snare), following up with a Blastwave and Fire Blast, all while retaining use of instant casts such as a Nova/IL/CoC/Arcane Explosion to proc impacts. Molten Armor works for proccing Impact for both melee and ranged attacks. Frost and Fire Ward have a high chance to reflect fire and frost spells with minor glyphs for added effect. A PvP fire mage is always on his toes adapting to different situations. It isn't as consistent as other tree's for PvP, but it can be entertaining and effective.
  • (0/53/18) Frostfire PvP
    • This is very similar to the above build with the exception that it adds the possibility for Shatter combos and Icy Veins within a fire spec. It adds slightly more survivability to melee classes through Ice Armor buffs and more snares. However, the lack of Imp. Counterspell, Magic Absorption, and Magic Attunement can make fighting other casters significantly more difficult. The point into Imp. Blizzard is simply to provide slightly more utility inside a battlegrounds environment by adding a snare/freeze to Blizzard, this point may be removed if needed.
  • (19/52/0) Living Bomb + Improved Counterspell PvP
    • This my latest PvP fire spec and find it really fun to play with. Basically I tried to balance this spec not only to make it fun, but also viable for fighting different classes. Magic Absortion and Counterspell are good for fighting other casters, while Arcane Fortitude, Impact and Blazing Speed, are pretty useful when fighting melee classes. Also I tried to keep a focus on instant nukes (Pyroblast when Hot Streak procs) or quick casting spell like with Improved Scorch, Improved Fire Blast and Hot Streak. Also, as a little tip, I'll say that I use some instant cast spells from other specs such as Ice Lance, Cone Of Cold and of course, Frost Nova and Arcane Explosion (and this is why I've also added 3 points in Spell Impact) just to keep the constant dps going. As for the glyphs, I picked those based on my personal experience since Glyph of Evocation is a must for me as a way of healing quickly without having to stop and eat, and as for the Glyph of the Penguin... who doesn't like to see their foes wandering around looking like a cute and harmless penguin? ;).
  • (27/44/0) "Firecane" Arcane Potency/Clearcasting/Hot Streak
    • This is a fire/arcane hybrid build that is quite viable in both BG's and Arena. It places points in Arcane Concentration, POM and Arcane Potency in the Arc tree to trigger Hot Streak. I find Hot streak procs FAR more frequently then a deep fire build, as you gain 30% crit chance after gaining the clearcasting effect. The fire tree also picks up blast wave and dragons breath for more control and all the other fire goodness pre-Living Bomb and Burnout. Don't forget to Cone of Cold your target for Torment the Weak. My basic spell rotation is scorch until a hot streak (which happens very quickly with arcane potency and clearcasting) and then pom pyro etc. Extremely fun and high survivability fire build. Note: 1 point can be taken out of Fire Power to put an additional point into Blazing Speed for additional survivability and breathing room. This spec was produced by "Imageine" of Frostmourne-US

See also

References

  1. ^ SimulationCraft T10 raid output. Retrieved on 2010-07-16.
  2. ^ Icecrown Citadel Real-time Raid Analysis. Retrieved on 2010-07-16.

External links