Three-minute mage

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As of patch 4.0.1, it is impossible for a Mage to obtain both Presence of Mind and Pyroblast within the same build, due to reconfiguration of the talents in Cataclysm. This article and the information it contains is therefore purely listed for historical purposes. The following information is based on the talents and its system prior to 4.0.1.

A three-minute mage refers to a mage with a talent spec that combines the [Presence of Mind] and [Arcane Power] abilities with a powerful burst damage spell, usually [Pyroblast]. This designation gets its name from the fact that Arcane Power and Presence of Mind have 3 minute cooldowns. It may also include the newly added [Icy Veins] and [Mirror Image] abilities. Typically, the mage will also have one or more damage-enhancing trinkets, such as [Icon of the Silver Crescent] or [Hex Shrunken Head]. The technique is to combine many abilities for a short period of maximum burst damage. The three-minute mage will activate all of these abilities and trinkets at once, and unleash a single, instant nuke such as [Pyroblast] for a large amount of damage.

The three-minute mage technique is most prevalent in PvP situations. The large burst damage is often enough to kill a player without retaliation. The drawback is that this burst damage is only usable once every three minutes, due to cool downs. Also, the talent spec leaves out many survivability talents, leaving the mage vulnerable when the burst combo is not available. However, good mages can make up for defensive deficiencies with skill, and the extra talent points at level 70 round out the talent specs that were limited at level 60.

The term often has a negative connotation with other players. A player at the receiving end of a Three-Minute Mage has little recourse once the fiery ball of death is headed his way. Thus, the technique is often viewed by non-mages as "overpowered," requiring little skill to hit a single macro to kill a player with no risk. Mages with this combination are often accused of not knowing how to play, and are accused of only engaging in PvP every 3 minutes. Other mages see it as a crutch for unskilled players, who give the mage class a bad name with their brute force approach. They claim that other specs such as Frost or Elementalist require skill, finesse and acute awareness to succeed in PvP. Calling someone a 3-minute mage is considered an insult, even if that mage is not specialized such. The insult is often leveled at mages who use any cool down in battle, but especially Arcane Power.

Despite negative feelings, the technique has situational advantages in PvP. Three-minute mages are appreciated in Warsong Gulch for their ability to quickly turn a flag carrier into a flaming corpse, even if he is surrounded by many defenders.



The traditional three-minute mage technique uses three key abilities, which are trained as talents:

  • [Arcane Power] (Arcane, Tier 7) - When activated, your spells deal 20% more damage while costing 20% more mana to cast. This effect lasts 15 sec.
  • [Presence of Mind] (Arcane, Tier 5) - When activated, your next Mage spell with a casting time less than 10 sec becomes an instant cast spell.
  • [Pyroblast] (Fire, Tier 3) - Hurls an immense fiery boulder that causes X Fire damage and an additional Y Fire damage over 12 sec.

This requires at least 31 points in Arcane and 11 points in Fire. For level 70 mages, the remaining 19 points are usually placed in Arcane or Fire trees. Since the three-minute mage is chiefly a PvP phenomenon, talent choices discussed here focus on PvP usefulness. However, a mage may consider taking PvE/raid related talents to be more effective when not PvPing.

In the Arcane tree, there are many choices for the 30 points required to go down to Arcane Power at Tier 7. Along the way, Presence of Mind is in Tier 5, which is required for [Arcane Instability] at Tier 6, which requires 3 points to get Arcane Power, leaving 26 points for customization. Typically, the talents will revolve around the desire for more damage or more survivability. An obvious choice is [Improved Counterspell], which finds many uses in PvP. For survivability, consider [Improved Mana Shield] as it is a primary defensive mechanism for non-frost mages. For more damage, consider [Arcane Concentration] and [Arcane Potency] for more critical strike chances. Beyond Arcane Power, consider Spell Power to increase the critical strike damage bonus. Also, consider the Tier 9 talent [Slow] for 41 points.

In the Fire tree, Pyroblast is found early, at Tier 3. Since Pyroblast is the primary nuke of the traditional three-minute mage technique, consider talents beyond Pyroblast to increase the damage and critical strike chance for it. [Ignite], [Critical Mass] and Firepower are all good candidates for increasing fire damage. [Blast Wave] is also popular for PvP due to it being an instant, high damage spell, and the daze effect. With Blast wave, [Fire Blast], and Presence of Mind, the mage has three possible instant fire nukes to use while Arcane Power is activated. Note that since 31 points are required for Arcane Power, the talents [Combustion] and [Dragon's Breath] are unavailable.

Truly, only Presence of Mind is necessary for the 3-minute mage, as [Fireball] can easily replace Pyroblast, as well as [Arcane Blast] or [Frostbolt] if immunities come into play. Also, considering the purpose of the 3-minute build isn't so much the initial hit as it is the overall burst damage, Arcane Power can also be replaced by [Combustion] or [Icy Veins]. Indeed, it is even possible to combine Arcane Power and Icy Veins at the moment, and with 10 more talent points becoming available in Wrath of the Lich King it will be possible to combine Arcane Power with Combustion.

Example talent specs

PvP Spell Power/Fire Power
Mage - Requires level 70
Arcane 33
Fire 28
Frost 0

View this build: WoW US Community Site[1] Wowhead[2]

(33/28/0) Spell Power, Fire Power This build is PvP oriented with Arcane talents down to Spell Power, and Fire talents down to 3 points in Fire Power. The build includes the classic three-minute mage combo, includes the useful [Improved Counterspell], and focuses on talents that increase the damage of fire spells, as well as some survivability. Crit chance for fire spells is increased through [Critical Mass], [Incineration] and [Arcane Potency], damage from crits is increased through Spell Power and [Ignite], while overall fire damage is increased through points in [Fire Power] and [Playing with Fire]. [Blast Wave] is included as an extra instant nuke. This build includes [Improved Mana Shield] and [Arcane Mind] to make [Mana Shield] more efficient as a survivability tool in PvP, and [Magic Attunement] and [Arcane Fortitude] for added defense. These are mostly filler talents in the Arcane tree and can be moved as desired.

PvP Arcane/Fire with Slow
Mage - Requires level 70
Arcane 41
Fire 20
Frost 0

View this build: WoW US Community Site[3] Wowhead[4]

(41/20/0) Arcane/Fire with Slow This build is a deep arcane PvP-oriented build based on the previous build, but incorporates [Slow]. Some direct fire enhancing talents are left out in favor of increasing all spell damage through [Mind Mastery]. This build works well with high intellect, which is important to have when using [Mana Shield], which is again improved through [Improved Mana Shield].



A trinket that temporarily increases damage is an important part of the three-minute mage. Though it is not required, it is certainly helpful to have one of these equipped. Only one trinket of this type can be activated at a time. Prior to the Burning Crusade expansion, only two such trinkets were commonly available, and they were only available to those who raided Zul'Gurub or Molten Core. Post-expansion, many more trinkets were made available as quest rewards, reputation rewards and 5-man instance drops.

Trinket Cooldown Level Source
 [Zandalarian Hero Charm] 2 min 58 Quest (Raid),
N [60R] The Heart of Hakkar
 [Talisman of Ephemeral Power] 90 sec 60 Drop (Raid),
Molten Core
 [Vengeance of the Illidari]TBC 90 sec 58 Quest (Group),
A [63] Overlord
H [63] Cruel's Intentions
 [Ancient Crystal Talisman]TBC 90 sec 60 Quest,
H [64] A Spirit Ally?
 [Glowing Crystal Insignia]TBC 90 sec 60 Quest,
A [63] Overlord Gorefist
 [Xi'ri's Gift]TBC 90 sec 70 Vendor,
The Sha'tar - Revered
 [Scryer's Bloodgem]TBC 90 sec 70 Vendor,
The Scryers - Revered

The technique

The basic technique in PvP is to activate the abilities [Arcane Power], [Presence of Mind], a trinket, then [Pyroblast], in that order. The result is a fiery ball of death that will deal a lot of damage. Only Pyroblast triggers the global cool down, so all abilities can be activated in rapid succession. These steps can be combined into a single macro:

/cast Arcane Power
/cast Presence of Mind
/use 13
/cast Pyroblast

Note that /use 13 refers to the trinket in the top trinket slot. /use 14 will activate the trinket in the bottom slot. This form is helpful if you commonly rotate damage trinkets through a single slot. Alternatively, put the name of the trinket in the command and it will be activated regardless of the slot, e.g. /use Zandalarian Hero Charm. Omit the line completely if not using a trinket. With this macro, only one ability will be activated at a time. Thus, the macro requires mashing the button quickly to fire.

To fire the whole lot in one button click, use the macro:

/cast Arcane Power
/cast Presence of Mind
/use 13
/cast Pyroblast

The disadvantage of this macro is that it will only fire in one click while not moving. If moving, it will generate an error "Can't do that while moving" and you will have to click a second time to fire the Pyroblast.

Another option, provided you can catch your enemy completely off guard, is to first Polymorph them. After they have been polymorphed, you can activate all of your spell damage buffs and cast a standard Pyroblast, and then follow it up with a second Pyroblast cast with Presence of Mind activated. At max level, this can cause between 6k damage to up to 10k damage, if both pyroblasts score a critical strike. This would be done with two macros like so:

Non PoM Pyroblast:

/cast Arcane Power
/use 13
/cast Pyroblast

PoM Pyroblast:

/cast Presence of Mind
/cast Pyroblast

This is referred two as the 'Twin Pyroblasts', since you fire off two Pyroblasts in quick succession. It is also very effective against elite monsters in PvE.

In PvP, however, this requires you to be able to blindside your opponent and catch them alone.. If they see you coming, you're better off using the standard PoM/AP Pyroblast.

Once the instant Pyroblast deed is done, you still have 9 to 15 seconds of arcane power to use. Follow up with other instant nukes such as [Fire Blast], [Arcane Explosion], or [Blast Wave] if specialized for it.

In PvP Battlegrounds, combine the above with the Berserker buff to gain even more damage.

External links

  • Mages Take Skill A video demonstration, somewhat in jest. The video's comments reflect player sentiment towards the three-minute mage.