Welcome to our WoW Classic guide for arcane mages! Of all three mage specializations, arcane definitely raises some of the most interesting questions. Arcane doesn’t have much of a place as a damage specialization by itself due to a limited number of arcane spells, but it is a prominent choice for a hybrid arcane-frost build. Because of that, arcane mages absolutely are a great damage-dealing specialization and capable of dealing incredible damage.
In this guide, we’ll explain the basics of playing an arcane mage. This guide will cover everything you need to optimize your character, including stat priorities, enchants, consumables, and profession choices. It will also explain your rotation and gameplay tips to help you master the spec. You’ll also want to know your race options and talent builds, which can be found just below! All of this will help you become an excellent arcane (frost) mage, letting you top the damage charts in no time!
When it comes to picking a race, the mage class is about as balanced as it can get. Both the alliance and horde can have two of their four races play as a mage. Within each faction, there is a clear superior and inferior race choice if you’re concerned about maximizing your damage output! You can check out all the racial abilities and passives right here. Otherwise, look for your preferred faction below!
- Human – Many players enjoy playing as a human! Humans do have pretty solid attribute base values that do help you out as a mage. Their only beneficial racial passive is The Human Spirit, which does give you an extra 5% spirit. Unfortunately, spirit is of the lowest stat priority for a mage.
- Gnome – Gnomes make for fantastic mages! This is thanks to Expansive Mind, granting +5% Intellect. This means gnomes will always have more intellect than other races, assuming identical gear, enchants, and buffs. They also have the highest intellect base value in the game, giving them a head start on their intellectual lead!
- Undead – Unfortunately, undead just aren’t a good race for raiding. They have a great spirit base value, but this again is of the lowest stat priority. Will of the Forsaken isn’t much use either, meaning undead are only good options for cosmetic reasons.
- Troll – On the other hand, trolls are an excellent option. They do have a fairly poor intellect base value, but that doesn’t matter when they’ve got the ability to go crazy. Berserking can increase your spell casting speed by up to 30!
Your talents are where things start to get interesting. While you can go with a deep arcane build with the intention of only using Arcane Missiles, this isn’t the best way to use the arcane specialization. You’ll actually deal much more damage casting Frostbolt with a hybrid arcane frost build. We’ll list both specializations here just in case you’re interested, but the arcane frost build does deal more damage while having far less mana issues.
This is the basic outline of the arcane frost build. It has 31 points in the arcane tree, meaning you pick up the powerful cooldown talents, Presence of Mind and Arcane Power. With 20 points in the frost tree, the only remaining talents are utility or defensive oriented (assuming you have at least one frost mage in the raid with a deep frost build to keep Winter’s Chill applied). This is what allows you to go so deep into the arcane tree, giving you all the offensive bonuses of both the frost and arcane tree.
This is the build you would use if you only want to use Arcane Missiles. You can do decent damage with this specialization, but it is quite prone to mana issues, and simply not worth it. Without changing any gear or stats, you can do more damage with an arcane frost build without really trying any harder. You also won’t run out of mana as quickly! If you want to use this build, note that you’ll want to use Fire Blast on cooldown to take advantage of the Ignite talent, which will help supplement your Arcane Missiles damage.
Now you have the thrilling task of optimizing your arcane mage so you do the most damage you can! This is quite an exciting process, as it quite literally makes the difference between being at the bottom of the damage charts and topping them. As an arcane mage, you have all the tools at your disposal to deal impressive amounts of damage, but you need to optimize your character to make sure this happens!
The most important part of optimizing your arcane mage is understanding your stat priorities. Every attribute on this list will definitely make you stronger, but that doesn’t mean you should favor them equally. As a spellcaster, your priority is to make your spells hit harder, but you’ll also need mana regeneration to keep slinging those spells. This makes it a balancing act, but raw power always tends to win out, generally speaking.
Prioritize stats like this as an arcane mage:
- Spell Hit to Cap (16%) – Despite wanting to boost the damage of your spells, you first need to ensure they actually hit! The arcane frost build needs just 10% as they already have an extra 6% hit chance with the Elemental Precision talent, but a pure arcane build needs just 6% as they have an extra 10% hit chance with the Arcane Focus talent.
- Spell Damage – Once you’ve got your spell hit rating situation handled, you’ll want to load up on spell damage. This stat is your best friend, and will make your flashing damage numbers hit harder! The best way to boost your DPS is by making your spells hurt more!
- Spell Critical Chance – After loading up on spell damage, you’ll want plenty of spell critical chance. You do have an extra 3% from the Arcane Instability talent, but extra crit never hurts a spellcaster!
- Intellect – Just below crit chance is intellect. Intellect will give you a small spell crit chance, but not enough to justify prioritizing it. Intellect also grants mana, which helps you cast spells longer.
- MP5/Spirit – The last thing you need (but do want) is MP5 and spirit. You’ll have a total of 45% in-combat mana regeneration with Mage Armor and the Arcane Meditation talent. That’s a lot of regen!
You’re also going to need some professions to complete your arcane mage setup. For some classes, professions are an essential. This isn’t necessarily the case for mages, but they can make life a little bit easier. Not only do you have convenient access to crafting, but you also have a great way of making gold. Gold is a great way of buying consumables to help you deal more damage, so you definitely shouldn’t neglect professions!
You can benefit the most from these professions as an arcane mage:
- Tailoring – Tailoring is a great choice for any mage. Not only do you eliminate the need for a gathering profession, but you also have access to special tailoring patterns. You can make gear that you’ll use for quite some time, and also have access to set bonuses only tailors can benefit from!
- Enchanting – Enchanting is another good choice that doesn’t need a gathering profession. You’ll need several enchants to give you an added bonus. Enchanting allows you to disenchant gear and gather these materials yourself, meaning you’ll have free or extremely-discounted enchants whenever you need them.
- Alchemy – You’ll need several alchemy-crafted consumables across your raiding career. Taking alchemy will allow you to effectively slash your pre-raiding expenses, assuming that you plan on gathering herbs yourself!
- Herbalism – If you want to make potions and elixirs yourself, you’ll need herbalism to gather the required herbs. This is a great way to help ensure that you actually bring consumables to raid night!
Enchants are always an important part of optimizing. The bonuses you see here might not blow you out the water, but all of them combined together create quite a significant increase to your power. Considering that some of these enchants can get quite costly, you’ll only want to use them on gear you know you’ll be keeping for a while!
Arcane mages should pick up all of the following enchants:
- Helm – Presence of Sight, +18 Healing/Spell Damage, +1% Hit Chance or Arcanum of Focus, +8 Healing/Spell Damage
- Shoulder – Zandalar Signet of Mojo, +18 Healing/Spell Damage
- Cloak – Subtlety, -2% Threat
- Chest – Greater Stats, +4 All Stats
- Bracers – Greater Intellect, +7 Intellect or Mana Regeneration, +4MP5
- Gloves – Threat, – Threat or Frost Power, +20 Frost Damage
- Pants – Presence of Sight, +18 Healing/Spell Damage, +1% Hit Chance or Arcanum of Focus, +8 Healing/Spell Damage
- Boots – Minor Speed, + Movement Speed, or Spirit, +5 Spirit
- Weapon – Spell Power, +30 Spell Damage
Even better than enchants are consumables. Enchants are great for offering permanent bonuses, but unfortunately these boosts are individually lackluster. On the other hand, the buffs you receive from consumables are significant and great. You can gain over 200 spell power with consumables alone, but all that power comes at quite a cost! This is also why alchemy is a great profession choice. Don’t neglect your consumables, or your damage output will definitely suffer.
These consumables are the best to stock up on as an arcane mage:
- Flask – Flask of Supreme Power, +150 Spell Damage for 2 hours
- Elixir – Greater Arcane Elixir, +35 Spell Damage for 1 hour
- Potions – Major Mana Potion, ~1800 mana every 2 minutes, and Mageblood Potion, +12 MP5 for 1 hour
- Food – Nightfin Soup, +8 MP5, or Sagefish Delight, +6 MP5
- Weapon Oil – Brilliant Wizard Oil, +36 Spell Damage, +1% Spell Crit Chance
- Others – Limited Invulnerability Potion to instantly drop threat, Scroll of Intellect for +17 Intellect, and Demonic / Dark Rune for extra mana at the cost of health
Rotation & Gameplay Tips
When it comes to raiding as an arcane mage, the arcane frost build is definitely the go-to. Arcane Missiles builds suffer from mana issues, meaning you’ll run out of mana far before a mage casting Frostbolt. Not only that, but your Fire Blast + Ignite combination are fairly useless in Blackwing Lair and Molten Core because enemies in those raids are resistant to fire damage. Regardless of what you end up playing, arcane can definitely be a fun and rewarding damage specialization!
Here are some gameplay tips for an arcane mage:
- To get the most damage from your cooldowns, use Arcane Power and Presence of Mind at the same time. This combo boosts your damage by 30% for 15 seconds, while making your first cast instant!
- You should learn when to use Evocation. It is an 8-second long channel, during which you can’t use other spells. It also has an 8 minute cooldown. Try to use it when you are already unable to attack, like transition periods.
- Mages are quite squishy, but have multiple ways of avoiding death. You can use Blink to teleport away from enemies, Polymorph to turn them into a sheep, Mana Shield to convert damage to mana loss, or Fire / Frost Ward to absorb fire/frost damage. A dead mage deals no damage, so don’t be afraid to use any of these to keep yourself alive!
- As a mage, you do need to keep your eye on buffing. You can provide Arcane Intellect / Brilliance for +31 intellect. Simply brilliant! Mage Armor is your personal buff, which gives 30% in-combat mana regeneration.
- You can also offer utility and improve the quality of life for your raid group. With Conjure Food and Conjure Water, food and water will never be a concern. You can also use any of your portals to transport allies to major cities.
- Another important conjuration spell involves your mana gem. Mana gems will allow you to restore mana during battle, like a healthstone, but for mana! Conjure Mana Ruby will give you at least 1000 mana, so nothing to cough at!
Arcane Frost Build Rotation
Many people like the arcane frost build to the high damage output it provides while having an extremely simple rotation. It doesn’t get any easier than using just one spell, Frostbolt. If you’re only fighting one enemy, you’ll never use another spell unless you need to move. In that case, you’ll use Fire Blast.
With multiple enemies around, you’ll actually want to start off with Flamestrike to apply the damage-over-time effect to all enemies. After that, line up a well-placed Cone of Cold to hit as many enemies as possible. After that, use Arcane Explosion until Flamestrike needs refreshing!
- Single Target: Frostbolt > Fire Blast (if moving)
- Multiple Targets: Flamestrike to apply DoT > Cone of Cold > Arcane Explosion
Pure Arcane Build Rotation
If you’re playing a pure arcane build, your rotation is fairly simple too. You’ll now use Fire Blast first and on cooldown so that you can keep your Ignite talent DoT applied. After that, you’ll use Arcane Missiles whenever Fire Blast is on cooldown. In the event you’re fighting multiple enemies, you’ll want to start with Flamestrike to apply the DoT. After that, just spam Arcane Explosion!