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World of Warcraft: Mage PVP guide -- part I

Updated on March 9, 2013
World of Warcraft Mage Class Crest
World of Warcraft Mage Class Crest

Mage background

In the WoW universe, as a mage, you use magical spells to deal devastating damage to your enemies. Your Achilles heel in a strategic sense is your ability, and hindrance, to be a glass cannon. The class as a whole specializes in area of effect and burst damaging spells and unlike other classes, a mage mitigates damage through crowd control abilities, as opposed to sheer armor, or stamina values. The iconic crowd control mage ability is the spell known as Polymorph, which temporarily transforms humanoids and beasts into harmless critters. As Mages approach end-game levels, mages' damage is supplemented with spells like Counterspell, Remove Curse, and Spellsteal. Mages can also conjure food and drink and the ability for themselves and party members, as well as teleport to major cities and open portals for party members.

Stat priority and gear

Although different specializations depend on 1 stat priority more than another, in general, as a mage your primary stats are:

  • Intellect
  • spell power
  • spell hit
  • spell crit
  • haste
  • mastery

In general you'll want to balance all your gear around these priorities and in this order. Stamina values on gear is important, but the higher Intellect value is better, when in doubt. Intellect at max level will always equal out to 300k mana now-a-days. Still, it affects spell power.

Spell power at max level should be as a base around 14,000

Currently, the spell hit rating cap is 5% to hit other level 90 targets with a 0% miss chance. Missing a target is the easiest way to lower DPS, so aim for this cap among your stat priority.

Mages, with mage armor and our passive spell Shatter means our crit ratings are less gear-dependent. Even so, a crit rating of 15-20% is respectable.

Beyond spell hit, your haste rating will affect how quickly you cast, channel, and how quickly your DoTs, such as your various mage-bomb spells, tick. Haste is often undervalued, but a very important stat. Aim for at least 10% above base, and always pick up gear that has more haste over mastery. That said, mastery between 10 and 20% is good.

Obviously, no matter what your specialization as a mage, if you're PVP, the most important stats of all are: PVP resilience, which is at base of 45%, and you can never have enough of, and PVP Power -- again, you can never have enough of this.

Spirit is useful for mana regeneration, but given mages have spells and techniques to handle this directly, you can ignore spirit.


Arcane-specific stats:

  1. Spell damage
  2. Spell Haste
  3. Mana Adept: Arcane will deal damage based how much mana the mage has unspent. For example, Arcane mages will do much more damage at 100% mana than at 50% mana. If they begin to get low on mana, they will likely want to use an ability or mechanic to bring their mana up to increase their damage.

Fire-specific stats:

  1. Spell damage
  2. Spell Crit
  3. Ignite: All direct-damage fire spells will add a damage-over-time (DoT) component when cast. The flavor will be similar to how Fireball works; however, the DoT component will be much stronger.

Frost-specific stats:

  1. Spell damage
  2. Spell Crit
  3. Deathfrost: All direct-damage spells do extra damage (equivalent to your mastery score) against frozen targets.

Undead Mage, via Glacial Inferno
Undead Mage, via Glacial Inferno

Specializations and tactics.


Arcane is generally considered a PVE (player verses environment) spec, however you can certainly PVP with this spec. It's basic rotation and the mechanics of spell rotation are easy to understand, but hard to master. This means the greater on the learning curve you are for this spec, the better your returns in the form of damage done. Compared to the other mage specs, it does perhaps the most devastating amount damage in the shortest amount of time. Tactically, this makes it an excellent PVP spec, because mages depend on killing quickly to survive, because we simply can't take a hit in return. The downside to using this spec is its lack of more significant character control abilities. This means arcane is fine if you're going into a battleground with a dedicated healer, or another caster that's willing to pick off anyone attacking you. Slow is the unique spell gifted to arcane mages. It does significantly lower spell casting and movement speed, but only on one tartet at a time, and it isn't the same as a fire mage's stun, or the automated debuff of a frostbolt. In terms of spell rotation, I'd start by applying the mage bomb of your choice to the target (more on those later). Follow with an arcane blast, slow, arcane barrage , and another arcane blast x2. With arcane spec, much of the damage you'll generate will depend on how many arcane charges you have available, which in turn increases (significantly) the amount of damage your arance barrage spell can deal. It's a bit of a balance to determine the amount of charges versus to the ratio of damage, but I'd say aim for 2 or 3 charges. You can do very good damage without wasting casting time to get an extra 30k damage.


Fire mages are a versatile class, and I've seen them effectively played in PVP and PVE scenarios. Fire mages don't have a special resource, but much of their damage, in the form of instant-cast Pyroblast spells is proc-dependent. Which means crit is a must for fire PVP. In addition to the baseline crowd control spells, fire spec mages also have Dragon's Breath which is an area of effect stun to targets with a duration of 4 seconds. You can chain this with other freeze/stun/root spells to keep an enemy from ever touching you as you burn them down. Your spell rotation will include some heavy emphasis on your scorch talent. I highly recommend using your Alter Time spell after your Pyroblast initially procs, as you this allow you to get 2 pyroblasts for the price of the 1 :)


The PVP mage spec par excellence. Frost isn't known for its damage output, in fact of all the mage specializations frost typically throws out the least damage on a spell-by-spell basis. This is mitigated however by the excellent control you have over your enemies. In fights at higher levels, where stamina values are high --- and mages, regrettably, still can't take many hits, the ability to control the movement and position of your target is a powerful ability. The key to frost's damage output, like fire, is proc-based. Unlike fire, your procs come with more reliable regularity. Alter Time is still very useful, and you should use it whenever available and whenever Frostfire bolt is instant cast. Your DPS rotation should include at least 3 Frostbolts, as the frostbolt debuff and damage stack up to a maximum of 3. Your mage-bomb will be what procs your nuke, so apply it early and often.

Frost is the only mage spec that gives you a pet. To get the most from this feature, here is a macro I've developed that allows you cast your pet's freeze with the single tap of a key-bound-button:


/cast [pet] Freeze

Another useful macro, that casts both your pet's freeze, and your own frost nova spell using a single button:


/cast [nopet] Frost Nova

/stopmacro [nopet]

/cast [pet] Freeze


/cast [pet] Frost Nova

If you liked this article, check out part II of my mage guide here, it includes information on gylphs, professions, and talent builds. And remember the mage-golden-rule: Always be casting.

What is your favorite mage specialization?

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