WoW Wotlk Lvl 80 Mage DPS Guide
Part I: Introduction
This guide will cover everything from the best talent spec for a Mage to the best spell rotation, gems, macros, addons, professions, gear, etc. I speak from personal experience as a raiding Mage, hoping to improve the skills of mages everywhere.
First off, I want to let you know a little about me. I have completed every raid in Wotlk up to and including Trial of the Crusader 25 man. I pull over 4k dps on a test dummy consistently with no other buff than my own Molten Armor. In raids I do between 5k and 6k dps depending on the fight and how my procs and crit-rate factor out, not to mention lag/frame rate. I am not the best raider or dps by far, but the usefulness of this article doesn't depend on it, only that I can help you to get better. At the time that I am writing this, the final boss in ToC 10 and 25 has just been released and I am wearing only 2 pieces of T9 gear(shoulders and gloves), so my dps will, of course, increase the more tier gear that I get, along with other pieces from the new raid of which I currently only have a few pieces.
The point of this guide is to inform Mages about how they can increase their dps. There are several factors that lead to high dps, including talents, gear, proper rotation, and skill, but when it comes to those 4 factors each can easily be improved upon, even so with the skill aspect, which most players and forums don't explain fully, saying that you just have to learn how to play your class. Well, as with anything in WoW, this "skill" is really just having proper knowledge of one's class, which really only takes a little explaining, you don't have to try and figure it out on your own. It may take a little bit of reading on your part, but not anymore time than it takes to do a single Heroic ToC run. I am here to explain all of these factors on 1 web page so that you won't have to google search your life away trying to find everything you need to know about mage dps like I did, /sigh.
Part II: Talent Spec
The highest possible Mage raid dps talent spec as of patch 3.2 is the Fireball/TTWspec. The spec uses Fireball as its primary nuke and maintains the Living Bomb DoT on the target. The spec gets its bonus dps from there being a slow/snare effect on the mob or boss, which will enable the Torment the Weak talent, increasing damage done by 12%, in addition to the buff Focus Magic which Mages tend to swap between each other so that during a fight they will receive a total +6% chance to crit. When you add the Glyph of Fireball for an additional 5% crit you find that this spec not only achieves the highest possible crit rate a mage can get, but it also gets an increased 12% damage on a boss, since there are multiple classes that apply slow/snare effects as part of the abilities in their rotation, even though the boss will be "immune" to them, the talent will still work.
This Fire spec has replaced the earlier Frostfire Bolt spec that was very popular at the beginning of Wotlk, and it has almost the exact same rotation, it simply uses Fireball in the place of Frostfire Bolt. Which spec is actually better may be up for debate, but the majority of high end raiding Mages have chosen Fireball/TTW as their spec, just something to note. The primary differences that I've noticed between the specs is that the Frostfire spec has more burst dps thanks to Icy Veins and requires less hit rating due to talents, it's also a more mana efficient spec.
The other popular raid dps talent spec that you will find many Mages using is Arcane. This spec also uses Torment the Weak and Focus Magic much like the Fire spec mentioned above, in addition to Icy Veins. This spec takes full advantage of the Mage +hit talents giving a total +6% chance to hit with arcane spells, which gives the benefit of needing to gear for less hit and more for other beneficial stats like haste/crit. This spec provides the highest burst dps a Mage can get and rivals any class in the game in terms of burst damage. The spec's only fault is due to the high mana cost of its spells, namely Arcane Blast, so running out of mana will happen sooner with this spec than the others. For some fights this will be a problem, for others it won't.
The primary reason that most high end raiding Mages have chosen the Fireball/TTW spec over Arcane is due in part to the mana inefficiency of the spec, but also due to the fact that the 4-set bonuses on both Tier 8 and now Tier 9 gear vastly favor a Fire spec over Arcane.
Arcane is probably a better spec to start out with because it's less gear dependant, and the beginning Wotlk raids don't have very long fights (except for KT), so running out of mana usually won't be a problem. There's also the fact that if you don't have your Tier 8 or Tier 9 4-set bonuses you won't be able to benefit more from a Fire spec anyway.
Frost has always been the leveling/soloing spec of choice for Mages due to the survivability it provides. It happens to also be a strong PvP spec. But, when it comes to raiding, where the only viable role that the Mage plays is to do damage, Frost just can't do what Fire and Arcane can. This is not to say that Frost is totally useless for dps, rather, I would argue that the same Mage in the same gear set could do more dps as Arcane, however, probably not as Fire due to the tendency of Frost Mages to gear for haste and not as much crit. And because Fire is a very crit dependant spec this also makes it a very gear dependant spec, meaning that with a crit-rate lower than about 30% its dps won't be where it should be. All in all, Frost and Arcane Mages gear the same, so my argument is that if you're a Frost Mage, try dpsing as Arcane with the same gear and watch as your dps miraculously goes way up. Or if you have a lot of crit gear anyway, go Fire and you'll see the same results.
Part III: Spell Rotation
In order to maximize your dps as a Mage you have to learn the basic spell rotation for the spec you will be using. I will also explain the mechanics of dps for each spec.
Fireball/TTW gets its dps from crits, in fact, nothing benefits the spec more than crit, after crit, after crit. Just take a second look at the talents the spec gets into and see for yourself why crit is so important. The first talent you'll notice is called Ignite, what it does is apply a DoT on the mob that you crit against for 40% of the crit's damage over 4 seconds. That's essentially doing 40% more damage per crit in addition to the bonus of the crit in the first place. Now go down near the bottom of the talent tree and you'll find the talent Hotstreak, what this does is makes your Pyroblast spell instant cast after you crit twice in a row, which considering the spell is also one of the highest damage spells a Mage has, becoming instant cast is pretty amazing. Now in order to crit twice in a row often enough for this talent to make a difference in your dps, you have to have a crit-rate close to 50%, which may sound like a lot, but with raid buffs you easily add over 20% crit, so all you need is around 30% crit self buffed(Molten Armor) to achieve this. That makes this spec very gear dependant, as I've already mentioned.
The Fireball/TTW spell rotation:
- Keep Living Bomb up (this is your highest damage spell so you will always want to make it your priority in the rotation; keep in mind, however, that it only does maximum damage when the timer is able to run out and it explodes at the end, if there won't be enough time left for that, don't cast it)
- Keep the Scorch debuff up (keep in mind that Frost mages have a similar buff that works for all spells instead of just Fire spells, and is applied by their primary nuke; these effects don't stack, so if there is a Frost mage in your group/raid don't bother with Scorch)
- Pyroblast if you've procced Hotstreak
- Spam Fireball
That is also the proper order of how you should cast your spells when beginning a boss fight, and the order of priority that each spell has. Keep in mind that because every boss fight is different, there will always be some things like moving around or whatever that have priority over your rotation, and sometimes it's best to alter the rotation to whatever would maximize your dps in that given fight. For example, some fights you aren't able to constantly attack the boss because he summons adds or constantly teleports in and out of the fight. in this situation it's probably best to avoid using Scorch because the debuff keeps disappearing before you have a chance to renew it, meaning that your wasting alot of dps reapplying it to 5 stacks every single time he comes back and you are able to attack him. The 5% crit probably won't help too much with such little time on the boss anyway so it's better not to apply it at all.
Arcane gets its dps from the Arcane Blast debuff, which when stacked to 3 will give a bonus of 45% Arcane spell damage, unless you have the Glyph of Arcane Blast, which increases the bonus by 3% for each effect, totaling 54% at 3 stacks. The catch is that this effect also increases the mana cost of Arcane Blast by 200% for each stack, totaling 600% at 3 stacks, this makes it impossible to spam Arcane Blast after 3 stacks because it costs too much mana at that point. Instead, you'll have to cast a different spell to remove the debuff. Ideally you will want to cast Arcane Missiles if you've procced Arcane Barrage, this is a talent near the bottom of the Arcane tree which greatly reduces its channeling time. Now the mechanics of how dps is achieved with this talent spec is haste. The faster you can stack the Arcane Blast debuff and the faster your Arcane Missiles cast, the more dps you'll do. Crit is nice, but you'll want as much haste as you can get to reduce the cast times of those two spell as much as possible.
The Arcane spell rotation:
- Arcane Blast
- Arcane Blast
- Arcane Blast
- Arcane Missiles (if you've procced Missile Barrage) or Arcane Barrage (if you haven't)
If you're finding that on a particular fight you're running out of mana too fast, keep Arcane Blast to 2 instead of 3. It'll decrease your dps by a bit, but it's better than running out of mana, which will bring your damage output completely to a halt.
The mechanics of Frost dps are very simple, the shorter the cast time of your Frostbolt the more dps you'll do, plain and simple. Its crit damage is a joke, so don't worry about getting a whole lot of crit, just focus on haste. Granted, you don't want to ignore crit completely, but I wouldn't focus on it too much.
The Frost spell rotation needs no explanation. Spam Frostbolt, cast Fireball when you've procced Brain Freeze, if you even want to bother with that talent anyway, and summon your Water Elemental whenever it's off cd.
Note: Regardless of spec, I also include Mirror Images in my rotation right at the start of the fight, they do about 300 dps or so for the time that their up so it seems worth it. I may even use it again when it gets off cd, but only if I'm moving around or something so as to not let it get in the way of the rest of whateve rotation I'm using. If you're having a problem with threat, however, then you may want to save the Mirror Images for when you're about to pull aggro, as long as they're up, you're aggro will be ignored by the boss until they die.
Part IV: Addons
Back when I started raiding for the first time in Wotlk, using a typical Frostfire Bolt spec, my dps was probably in the 2k range. Now as bad as that sounds, allow me to make it worse, I was in mostly epics.... Ok, the reason was because I sucked, obviously. I would have to glue my eyes to the action bars, glancing at my buffs occasionally and then to the bosses debuffs in order to keep my rotation going. This would continue until I inevitably died to some stupid thing the boss did that should've easily been avoided. So instead, I would focus on surviving and my dps would suck because I couldn't keep track of all the things I had to do for my rotation. I would proc Hotstreak and not use it, my Living Bomb would've already run out and I would still be standing there spamming Frostfire Bolt. Frostfire Bolt spam = fail dps.
Now, some people are able to watch for twenty things at one time, doing the perfect rotation and watching the fight at the same time, maybe even watching everybody else too and still do crazy dps, but I'm not one of those people. I can only focus clearly on one thing at a time and as fail as that sounds I think most people are this way. Since this is counterproductive to raiding, the best way I found to clear up this problem so that the only thing I had to focus on was the fight itself was by the use of addons, or rather, 1 addon.
It's the best addon I've found for any dps class. What it does is track your buffs and debuffs with bars on the screen (which can be put wherever you want) just like DBM or Bigwigs does with boss abilities. I use it to track Living Bomb and Scorch on my target and to know when I've procced Hotstreak. ClassTimer will give you a countdown to when these abilities will run out, so you know how long you have left to either use the Hotstreak or reapply Living Bomb/ Scorch. As lazy as some people make it out to be, this addon helps greatly because the only thing I have to do is watch the fight. It beats searching my buffs for Hotstreak the entire fight, just waiting to proc it, or staring at the bosses debuffs and trying to figure out how many seconds are left on my debuffs. Hey, anything that'll increase my dps is fine by me.
You can get this addon from Curse, at least that's where I got it, and to set it up in game all you have to do is type /classtimer. That'll open up the options menu and when there, you can uncheck the box that says "Lock" in order to be able to move around the 3 timer bars that it gives you. There are 2 yellow bars and 1 blue bar. The blue bar is for your own buffs, like Hotstreak for example, or Missile Barrage if you're Arcane. 1 of the yellow bars says "Focus" on it, the other says "Target," they are for your debuffs. What I do is put these bars near the middle of the screen or off to the side slightly so that they are within my view if I'm looking at my character, this way I don't have to glance around the entire screen just to keep my rotation going, I can just focus on the fight and still see all the information I need for my rotation.
Note: The default settings for ClassTimer will give you timers for some buffs that you probably don't want, like Arcane Intellect or Molten Armor, all you have to do is go to the Buffs tab after typing /classtimer and uncheck the box next to them to stop tracking them. I think if it was already tracking the buff and you uncheck the box you have to get rid of the buff to make it stop tracking, then when you reapply it, it won't be tracked anymore.
The other addons that I use and that I recommend for any raider are: Deadly Boss Mods, Recount, and Omen Threat Meter.
These can be downloaded from Curse also, and if you are a serious raider you probably already have these anyway so I won't get into much discussion about them. If you're new to raiding then I recommend getting these in addition to ClassTimer. You can get them from the same site that the link to ClassTimer takes you to, just enter the name of the addon in the "Find an Addon" bar and hit search. Once loaded they're good to go, no setup required.
Part V: Macros
As important as having the right spec and rotation are, macros can actually help quite a bit to increase your dps. The reason is behind the way that the meters record dps. They basically record the amount of damage you did and the amount of time it took you. The meter will begin calculating your dps when you first cause damage and stops a few seconds after you last deal damage or immediately when you leave combat. Any down-time in between casts when you weren't doing anything will still count against you as dps time, meaning when you are switching between targets or getting out of aoe. Anything that reduces your down-time will show as an increase in dps even though technically you aren't really dealing any more damage than before.
There are many macro "tricks," if you will, to increasing your dps, and I will list the ones that I know about and use. The first one is the most basic, whether you're Fire or Arcane, there are talent abilities at your disposal, Combustion, for example, These abilities can be tied to your primary spell in a macro so that all you have to do is press the button and if the ability is off cooldown it will be cast along with your primary spell immediately proceeding it.
This is how it looks:
Put that text into a macro and use a ? mark as the macro symbol. Upon finishing with the macro the ? will be replaced with the Combustion spell symbol and its cooldown will then be visible while it is on your action bar.
What this macro does is first cast Combustion, so long as it's off cooldown, and immediately start casting Fireball. Because there is no global cooldown following the casting of Combustion, Fireball can begin casting immediately without pause, this adds maybe 1 second of time that you would normally have lost pressing 2 buttons instead of one. But the real benefit is not having to watch the cooldown on Combustion to know when to use it again, I can simply spam the button to cast Fireball as part of my rotation, and whenever it happens to get off cooldown it wil be cast automatically.
Typically this kind of macro works better when there are 2 or more things you want to use at the same time, like say a trinket. If you're an Arcane mage with 2 trinkets in addition to the 3 talent abilities that you have, none of which are on the global cooldown, you can save a lot of time using those abilities by having them on a macro, not to mention you won't have to watch 5 cooldowns to know when to re-use them. Note: Both Arcane Power and Presence of Mind cannot be activated at the exact same time, there is a 10 second cooldown between the time that you use one of them and the time that you will be able to use the other.
/cast Icy Veins
/cast Arcane Power
/cast Presence of Mind
/cast Arcane Blast
This is how my Arcane macro looks, what it does is use all of the listed abilities at once and immediately cast Arcane Blast, instead of having to click to activate them all separately. Because of the cooldown in-between Arcane Power and Presence of Mind, you will have to wait about 10 seconds after first activating the macro and then Presence of Mind will be able to be used, as long as you're spamming the macro whenever you would want to use Arcane Blast in your rotation it will automatically activate when the cooldown is up.
The other macros that I also use are very situational, unlike the first one, and you will have to use your own judegment as to when to use them or if you even need them. The first is a very handy type of macro that can be customized with any spell you want and will help in a lot of situations, it's called a Focus macro and it looks like this:
/cast [target=focus] Polymorph
I used the spell "Polymorph" in this instance, but you can use any spell you want and it will still work. What this does is cast the spell on my focus target without actually targeting it. What this means is that I can stand there casting spells on other targets and be able to sheep whatever mob I need to without having to switch targets backand forth, not to mention if I have ClassTimer, it will track my Polymorph spell on the focus. This way I not only know when to re-sheep, but I won't have to lose dps time switching targets.
This macro also comes in handy when there's a target that needs to be interrupted with Counterspell. You can set that target as your focus and make the above macro but type "Counterspell" in the place of "Polymorph."
Another type of macro that is sometimes useful is called an Assist macro, and looks like this:
The TankName can be anyone that you want to assist. What this macro does is target the target of the person you are assisting. I sometimes feel the need to make a separate macro for each tank, but it's not always necessary, especially if your raid uses the oRA2 addon, which my guild does, but I won't get into that addon here.
There are other, custom target macros that I make for certain boss fights that look like the following:
I really just use this for quickly going back to the boss after killing the overcharged add, saves me about a second or two, woot! But it comes in handy for other boss fights, mostly in Ulduar, where I know the names of specific targets that I want to attack, like Freya. Say I want to get that Eonar's Gift thing that spawns throughout the fight, using a simple target macro gets it down faster than trying to find it, target it, then begin casting, especially since it has to die fast.
The following macros are macros that I use just to make some things easier or faster.
I hate pulling aggro and dying while trying to Iceblock because I was in the middle of casting a spell, this macro will end the cast immediately and cast Iceblock, provided the global cooldown is up. Then, when I no longer want to be Iceblocked, I can just press the button again and it will cancel out of it, instead of having to find the Iceblock amongst the 20 other buffs and right clicking it off. If you've ever accidentally clicked off a buff you wanted because your buffs were "moving around" as you gained and lost some during the fight you will want to make this macro, saves you time and there's no chance of clicking off the wrong buff.
You can also, and I would strongly recommend it, make a macro just like the Iceblock one above, but for Invisibility. Again, saves you time. I think that during a boss fight every second you can save by using macros is well worth it. Especially considering it won't take you more than a few minutes, that's the time people spend just waiting for buffs right before a fight, there's no reason you can't make a few macros while waiting in the meantime....
Note: There were times when I was still pugging Naxx and learning all these tricks that I would find myself talking to someone who's dps was much lower than mine, even though our gear was about the same, and they didn't understand why. When I would ask them if they were using any addons or if they were using macros they would say something like "bleh" or "sounds lazy," well...these kinds of macros will increase your dps, you be the judge of whether it really matters that someone else thinks it's lazy or not. I mean, I thought my role in the raid was to maximize my damage output so that we can down a boss, does it really matter how I go about it? Is the loot that the boss drops any better because I didn't use any addons or macros during the fight? And to those that say addons and macros take skill out of the game, I think of skill as utilizing every possible means to accomplish your set goal. So if downing a boss is your goal and better dps is the way to get that done, then making macros and getting addons is part of the skill it takes to be a great player.
Part VI: Professions
For this section, I just want to go ahead and list the "perks" that each profession gives you in terms of your dps as a Mage. Anything else about the professions regarding which is better for a Mage is debatable and really just a matter of personal preference.
Lightweave Embroidery: Embroiders a subtle pattern of light into your cloak, giving you a chance to increase your spellpower by 295 for 15 sec when casting a spell.
Because of this enchant alone, Tailoring is currently the best Mage profession in terms of dps. With a 35% proc rate and an internal cooldown of 60 sec it gives an effective +80sp, replacing the +23 haste enchant you would use otherwise.
Hyperspeed Accelerators: Permanently attaches hyperspeed accelerators to a pair of gloves, allowing a skilled engineer to increase their haste rating by 340 for 12 sec. The gloves can only be activated once every minute.
Springy Arachnoweave: Permanently attaches a springy arachnoweave to a cloak, increasing spell power by 27 and allowing you to turn the cloak into a parachute to fall slowly for 30 sec.
Nitro Boosts: Permanently attaches overpowered nitro boosts to a pair of boots, increasing your critical strike rating by 24 and allowing you to greatly increase run speed for 5 sec.
The glove enchant adds an additional ability to stack with other talent abilities and trinkets, and the cloak enchant replaces the 23 haste one that would be used otherwise, unless of course you also have Tailoring. The boot enchant is a sideways enchant that you may or may not use depending on what stats you need, it could replace the typical 12 hit - 12 crit boot enchant or the increased run speed - 15 stam enchant, depending on which one you would use otherwise.
Runed Dragon's Eye: +39 Spell Power (Red Gem)
The Dragon's Eye gems are Unique Equipped and you are only allowed to have 3 on you at a given time. Compared with the +23 sp epic gems that would otherwise be used in their place, you receive a total +48 sp.
Enchant Ring - Greater Spellpower: +23 Spell Power
That's pretty much it for Enchanting, you can enchant both rings so you get a total +46 sp.
Master's Inscription of the Storm: Permanently adds 70 spell power and 15 critical strike rating to shoulder armor.
This enchant would replace the Sons of Hodir rep enchant that would otherwise be your ideal choice, adding an additional +46 sp.
Mixology: You receive an increased effect and duration when you drink any elixir or flask you are able to make.
Flask of the North: Use: Increases your spell power by 47, attack power by 80, or strength by 40 for 1 hour. Counts as both a guardian and battle elixir. Effect persists through death.
When using a Flask of the Frost Wyrm, which gives you 125 sp, an alchemist actually receives 172 sp instead due to Mixology. This is equivalent to the effect of Flask of the North, which is a new addition to Alchemy and is not consumed when used, so essentially you get a +47 sp bonus at all times.
The other professions not listed are the gathering professions, which provide sub-par perks for a Mage, and Leatherworking/ Blacksmithing, which serve no practical purpose besides their perks, so don't bother with them.
Part VII: Gems
You will want to stack spell power as much as you can, making sure to always have 2 of the purple gems listed below equipped for your meta requirement. If you need hit rating, get it with the orange gems listed, or the +16 hit gem if you're not able to afford the epic cuts. When it comes to socket bonuses, you can ignore any intel and low haste/crit/hit ones, your goal should be to maximise spell power unless you can get an extra 3 or more of another stat like haste/crit/hit in its place.
Chaotic Skyflare Diamond: +21 Critical Strike Rating and 3% Critical Strike Damage
Requires at least 2 blue gems.
Runed Cardinal Ruby: +23 Spell Power
Runed Scarlet Ruby: +19 Spell Power
Potent Ametrine: +12 Spell Power and +10 Critical Strike Rating
Potent Monarch Topaz: +9 Spell Power and + 8 Critical Strike Rating
Reckless Ametrine: +12 Spell Power and +10 Haste Rating
Reckless Monarch Topaz: +9 Spell Power and + 8 Haste Rating
Veiled Ametrine: +12 Spell Power and + 10 Hit Rating
Veiled Monarch Topaz: +9 Spell Power and + 8 Hit Rating
Purified Dreadstone: +12 Spell Power and + 10 Spirit
Purified Twilight Opal: +9 Spell Power and +8 Spirit
Note: I only recommend using the gems that I have listed, the yellow gems for Hit/Crit/Haste should be avoided completely, the spell power gems are better in any situation, and if you want to make a socket bonus, use the orange gems instead. The same goes if you're still gearing up and need hit, use the spell power + hit orange gems insead of the yellow hit only gems.
Part VIII: Gear
Getting hit capped is the first step in gearing up your Mage. You will need a +6% chance to hit in order to be hit capped against a 10 man or Heroic Dungeon boss, and a +17% chance to hit against a 25 man raid boss.
When gearing for hit, keep in mind any talent points that give you an additional chance to hit, since these percentages won't show up on your character screen. Also keep in mind that Druids and Shadow Priests have a debuff that they can put on the boss which will increase the raid/party's chance to hit by 3%, and Draeni have their Heroic Presence aura/buff that will increase the raid/party's chance to hit by 1%. What this means, is that, so long as somebody is putting up the +hit debuff on the boss and there is a Draeni in the group (if you're Alliance), you will only need a 13% chance to hit to be capped in 25 man raids, and a 7% chance to hit in Heroic Dungeons/ 10 man raids. Should you have +hit talents you can reduce that percentage even more.
A lot of people seem to ask "what's the hit cap?" and not understand how hit actually works, so they want a number. If you have or had the same problem, you'll find that it's easiest to look at hit in terms of % because of the way that talents and the hit buff/debuffs work, since they add hit % and not hit rating, they're not viewable in your character screen. You have to mentally do the math, or else you might find yourself gearing for more hit than you actually need, which is a waste of stats.
As far as gear choices go, in general Fire Mages will want to gear for crit and Arcane Mages for haste, but that's just a way of prioritizing stats, obviously both crit and haste are ideal stats to get for either spec. You never want to pass up on a piece of gear that has a lot more of a particular stat, even if it's not a priority stat. A good way of working out whether an item is really an upgrade should it have a less desirable stat is to look at the spell power/number of gem sockets. Any piece of gear that can get you more spell power is going to be an upgrade as long as the less desirable stat in question is about equal to the desirable stat already on your gear, if not better.
Tier set bonuses should also be factored in. As a quick example, the tier 8 2-set bonus is one you'll want to hang on to until you can replace it with the 4-set tier 9, it's that good.
Another thing to keep in mind is the proc/use ability of a trinket. Most trinkets proc at a very consistent rate, about once every minute, and you don't have to be a mathematician to to see which trinket's ability is better.
Keep in mind that with the recent 3.1 change to Molten Armor, Spirit is a useful stat now for mages and should always be taken into consideration when comparing gear. For the most part, half the spirit on an item counts as crit rating. Now, a lot of spirit gear is designed for priests so spirit replaces another stat like hit/haste/crit, but as a mage spirit isn't that valuable, its about half as valuable. So for example, if a piece of gear has 40 spirit on it instead of 40 haste, the haste piece is better, because that's only about 20 crit, but if it was 80 spirit instead then you might consider it as a fire mage since that's basically 40 crit instead of 40 haste, and the crit tends to be better, not to mention the mana regen from that spirit doesn't hurt either. If you happen to have your Tier 9 2-set bonus then 70% of your spirit = crit, so you'll have to change the calculation accordingly.
Don't be fooled by item lvl, some 200 epics are better than 226 epics from Ulduar, look at the stats on the piece of gear or the proc/on use ability of a trinket when determining quality. What you should really be asking yourself when considering an item for an upgrade is "will it increase my dps?" NOT "well it's a higher item lvl..." Generally, higher item lvls mean higher stats, but sometimes the gear is designed for healers, not dps, so the higher item lvl on it would make it better than a lower item lvl healing piece, but not a lower lvl dps piece.
Part IX: Practice
The saying "practice makes perfect" is unrealistic, no amount of practice will ever allow you to reach prefection, however, to get good it will take practice and that's really what's going to take you the longest amount of time. What you have to do is apply what I've told you in this guide and spend the time working on the rotation for your spec. Running Heroics is a good way to do this, but I also found that just beating up on a Training Dummy helped me out a lot also. I would recommend giving the dummy a shot just so you can see what your dps looks like, I guarantee you if you stand there for 10 minutes casting away at it your dps will noticeably go up the more you adjust to your rotation.
Practice on the Grandmaster's Training Dummy, not the Heroic Training Dummy, the reason I advise this is because the Heroic dummy is a level 83 boss, meaning you have a 17% chance to miss it, which is not technically the case in a raid because of the hit buff/debuffs. If you attack the Grandmaster's dummy, but make sure your hit rating is at about 13% - 14%, which would include any +hit talents, then the simulation is a little more accurate.
In case you're wondering, solid dps for a training dummy is about 3k or more, if you're not doing that much dps then you'll have to work on either perfecting your rotation or getting better gear, but even if you are doing at least that much dps, try to get your dps as high as possible, I personally think it's better to learn on a dummy than in a raid since it's at your expense and not 9-24 other people's. Obviously attacking a dummy won't perfectly simulate a raid boss, but the thing is, you'll feel more comfortable during a boss fight when you know you have the perfect rotation down. Go ahead and make your macros and test them out, get used to using them if you're not already and feel free to change them up if you want, whatever allows you to maximize your dps.