PvE Arcane Mage DPS Guide

PvE Arcane Mage DPS Guide
  • Author: Luxrah
  • Date: May 9, 2024
  • Updated: May 15, 2024
  • Expansion: Cataclysm

Mages are one of four pure DPS classes in Cataclysm Classic, with three different talent trees offering different approaches to dealing damage. The Arcane specialization may be overshadowed a bit by its Fire siblings in this expansion, but the build still offers solid damage and utility and can even surpass Fire in the right circumstances.

Arcane Mage DPS in Cataclysm

Most builds saw a thorough reworking of their talents and abilities with Cataclysm, and the Arcane Mage is no exception. But even with all of the changes, the build plays mostly the same, albeit with a more defined window of burst damage followed by a period of mana conservation until your cooldowns come up again.

The Arcane Mage rotation is relatively simple, with the challenge being in managing your mana and cooldowns so you can get the most out of it. Knowing how many Arcane Blast you can afford to cast before you need to cast Arcane Missiles or Arcane Barrage to reset your stacks will be something you’ll develop a feel for as you play your character. You’ll also need to know what cooldowns you have available and when it’s optimal to use them. For example, it’s best not to stack the Troll Berserking racial with Time Warp, and Presence of Mind can’t be used while Arcane Power is active.

Arcane Mage Strengths & Weaknesses


  • Excellent Burst Damage
    On shorter fights and encounters that have a burn phase, Arcane Mages will steal the show. They’re capable of producing a lot of damage in a relatively short period of time.
  • Solid Utility
    Mages now bring Time Warp, which will be a major boon for smaller group content where you may not have a Shaman or Beast Mastery Hunter. Arcane also brings Arcane Tactics, which can likewise be useful in a group without a Beast Mastery Hunter or Retribution Paladin, as well as Focus Magic, which will be a nice buff for a fellow caster DPS. They also have options for slows, an AoE root, a hard CC, an interrupt, a purge, decurse, and their Arcane Brilliance buff. Mages can additionally conjure food for the group and provide portals.
  • Strong Solo Play
    Outside of raids, Mages are known for being a great class for farming and solo questing. All of the things you have to do outside of raids to improve your character will be easier on a Mage, who can teleport around, conjure their own food and water, and use their many crowd control abilities or Invisibility to avoid fighting when they don’t want to.


  • Low Sustained Damage
    The downside of strong burst damage is that when your cooldowns expire and your mana is low, you’re not going to be nearly as effective. On longer fights, Arcane will tend to fall behind in terms of DPS.
  • Low Survivability
    In solo content, Mages are able to survive through the intelligent use of their crowd control abilities, but that’s not enough in a raid environment when you’re getting hit by AoE and other unavoidable damage. Their best defensive ability, Ice Block, has a long cooldown, and Arcane doesn’t get any defensive abilities of its own.

Best Races for Arcane Mage in Cataclysm

Wow Horde Crest Horde


The Berserking racial is really strong for most casters, and the Arcane Mage is no exception. That alone makes this race the best choice for Arcane Mages, but Trolls also have some other useful racial abilities for the build.

  • Berserking gives you a 10 second Haste buff every 3 minutes, giving you an extra cooldown to use during your burn phase.
  • Regeneration gives you a little extra survivability, which you’re lacking.
  • Beast Slaying is free bonus damage any time you’re fighting a Beast type enemy. That includes two bosses in the Blackwing Descent raid.
  • Da Voodoo Shuffle is nice to have, although you already have Blink.


The new Horde race is also a very good option for an Arcane Mage, with a steady 1% increase to casting speed that is just as useful as the Troll’s Berserking. They also get another option for their already strong mobility. Their non-combat racials are very useful as well.

Wow Alliance Crest Alliance


Although the Expansive Mind racial has been nerfed a bit to increase only your mana pool and not your Intellect, it’s still a very strong trait for an Arcane Mage. Gnomes also have a couple other tricks up their sleeve that won’t necessarily help your damage but are still useful.

  • Expansive Mind allows you to spend more time in your burn phase before you need to start worrying about your mana again. Since it’s a percentage and not a flat increase, the bonus gets better with your gear.
  • Escape Artist lets you break out of roots and slows, although Blink works for this too.
  • Arcane Resistance gives you a modest little survivability bonus on any encounters that have Arcane damage.
  • Engineering Specialization is helpful if you want to level Engineering.


Heroic Presence only affects the Draenei now and not their group, but it’s still a great racial for an Arcane Mage. You also get a heal, which is something you don’t normally have as a Mage.

  • Heroic Presence gives you a flat 1% Hit toward the 17% cap you need to reach. This will let you Reforge some of your gear for other stats which will increase your DPS.
  • Gift of the Naaru lets you heal yourself (or another target) every few minutes, something you can’t really do otherwise.
  • Shadow Resistance will five you 85 points of Shadow Resistance at level 85. This will help you take a bit less damage as a squishy mage.
  • Gemcutting can help if you plan to level Jewelcrafting.


About the Author


I've been playing World of Warcraft on and off since vanilla, usually as a healer or caster and often as a guild leader. I play both retail and classic. I also love RPGs, sandboxes, and sims.
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