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Player vs. Player combat is one of the most difficult aspects of World of Warcraft. Kel’Thuzad and Malygos are going to do the same thing every time. They’re going to move the same way, cast the same spells, and the only thing that makes them challenging is their DPS and the random number generator that fuels what they do next. A Human (the real thing, not the WoW race!) on the other hand might just fly into the air with 5 shamans and slow fall down casting 5 Earth Shocks killing you while you fight Murlocs. There is nothing to dictate what another Human will do other than what the game can allow a Human to do. Yes, it will even allow five flying Shamans with 5 Earth Shocks of fury.

With any class there are going to be two things that affect your performance. That is how much gear you have and how well you can play. Those two break down even further. Gear needs damage (spell damage and critical strike) and resilience (to keep alive). Ability to play is broken down into response and button mashing.


We’ve got a whole big article on talents and talent builds but the biggest PvP question is “what talent build is best for PvP?” That answer is simple: whatever can do the most damage with the fastest. Ice is great in PvE but for PvP Arcane and Fire really shine. Fire does the high burst damage to really smoke your enemies while Arcane can do the big DPS if your gear is right and you can respond to the buffs.

Rotations don’t work too swell in PvP because you might cast one spell and have to move. Whatever buffs that are ticking down might not tick long enough to last until you start casting again. This problem isn’t that rough for melee who can move while they attack but for a Mage you are always casting.


Gear is important. You can be really good and fully understand your class and still fall short on gear. Gear is the upmost important thing in order to kill another player. You’re going to want critical strike, resilience, and spell damage. Stamina and Intellect aren’t necessarily that important because if you’re being focused, you’re dying no matter what. Health won’t mitigate the damage either, it will just keep you alive a second longer which often enough isn’t enough to get that needed heal off. Intellect helps with spell damage but it’ll come with the gear.

Watch out for any kind of PvE enemies during world PvP.

For damage there isn’t anything better than critical strike. You see you can do a whole lot of base damage but that can be healed up easily. You need constant and focused critical strikes that deal the massive damage to pull someone’s health to 0. Spell damage shouldn’t be neglected either, but not in the way you think. Critical strikes do between 150% and 200% of your normal damage (based on talents, its 150% base and caps at 200% with talents). So for each additional point of damage you do with a spell will be doubled.

For survivability, you’ll want resilience. This is why PvE and PvP gear don’t mix. Resilience does a whole Halloween bag full of tricks to help keep you alive while stamina and health just give you…. well more health. It will reduce your chance to be crit, reduces damage by crits, reduces damage from DoTs, and reduces mana drains. All of these are beneficial for a Mage except when they’re on the enemy; again, another big reason to have a ton of critical strike. You’ll never crit someone who is also stacking resilience unless you have a really high chance to crit.

The truth of the matter is that most of this discussion is slightly pointless. Most of the gear you get aimed at PvP will automatically be loaded with these stats. Seasonal Arena and Battleground gear all come loaded down with Intellect, resilience, critical strike, and spell damage. Gear comes in several forms.

You can purchase gear with honor points, arena point and honor points, and/or Emblems of Heroism and Valor. Gear changes each arena season and some of it requires a certain arena rating to equip. We’ll use the 5th arena season gear as an example. Savage Gladiator requires no arena rating and can be picked up with Emblems of Heroism from heroic instances, with some honor and arena points, or with just honor points outright. It’s pretty easy to get and equivalent to heroic dungeon items.

You can get Hateful Gladiator with Emblems of Valor or with arena points and honor which is equivalent to 10-man instance gear. Deadly Gladiator is equivalent to 25-man raid content and requires you to use only arena points. So as you can see the sets will come with play and you’ll get your stats automatically.

Strategy and Tactics


As a Mage you’re one thing and one thing only, and that’s a glass cannon. You can pretend you’re something else, even a friar with a staff, but that won’t change the fact you can output a ton of DPS before being stun locked and focused quickly. Playing smart and having some good gear can greatly increase the chances that you’ll be alive long enough to keep blowing things out before you’re shattered apart.

The first thing to understand is that you have range. You have A LOT of range. If you’re fire then you have A TON of range. You have to utilize your range if you are to survive. Getting up close to a Rogue and then casting Fireball will just land 3 daggers into your back and your face to the ground. If you use your range to your advantage then you’re going to be ahead of the game.

Range is important, and so are the tools you have at your disposal to get that range you need. A PvP trinket can break a lot of crowd control abilities but it isn’t enough to keep the endless assault of CC abilities that Mages have. If something is coming up close, then Polymorph it. If they break through that, then Frost Nova and blink away. If they break from that then just Cone of Cold to get that instant snare up and keep the distance. Use Fire Blast to keep the damage up, but don’t depend on your instas to kill anyone.


In PvE you may only use Counterspell a few times in the entire trip to level 80 but tactically used Counterspell might be one of the best skills you have. When playing against small numbers there is a very high need to stop the healing. Interrupting a castable heal will lock down the healer and cause a big break for your DPS to plow through someone. The key to mastering Counterspell is learning how to use it and manage to keep your DPS up. Remember that DPS suffers every second you’re not doing DPS but healing and to some extent enemy spells can hamper the damage you do.


There isn’t a very specific role in the battlegrounds for the Mage other than slay and slow. In Arathi Basin and Eye of the Storm you can be a good defender or attacker by using AoE slows and attacks. In Warsong Gulch you’ll want to slow down the enemies that are either taking your flag or chasing your own flag carrier. Alterac Valley is all about the AoE and slowing down large numbers. Finally Strand of the Ancients sees the Mage doing the same thing – AoE and slowing.

When dealing with large clumps of players you’ll get more DPS with an AoE spell and may even distract the healers but don’t expect to be casting it for long. Cone of Cold is a great ability for getting a large line of enemies slowed down and Frost Nova might not keep enemies still for long but every second helps.

Polymorph is effective in Warsong Gulch where you can polymorph a single person in the flag room to help attack or defend but in larger brawls it may not be worth the cast. Be sure to get the glyph that removes DOTs from Polymorph if you’re planning on laying down the hardcore crowd control.


Arena tactics are complex and difficult. There isn’t a lot of players and the room for mistake is lowered. Your job as a Mage is to do damage and provide crowd control through your frosty spells or your knowledge of the arcane. Polymorphing one enemy (say the healer) at the right time can allow your DPS to rip apart one target without fear of healing. Trinkets can defeat this strategy easy so it’s not to be relied on, but every second does count. You can taunt someone into using their trinkets pretty easily as well with stuns. Polymorph can also serve as an interrupt if nothing else if casted properly.

Frost Nova is a great way to stop a melee train from reaching your healers (in 3v3 and 5v5 especially). Cone of Cold and Blast Wave are other good abilities for knocking your enemies around a bit and keeping them controlled. Don’t forget to use Counterspell.

What’s important though is that you also use your DPS and help get enemies dead while keeping alive. Keep moving and remember that your armor is similar to wet paper. It’s not going to stop an enraged Warrior or really angsty Rogue from jabbing you. Jabbing you really hard.


Wintergrasp is a unique snowflake of PvP zones. The things you can do as a Mage is limitless and a lot of the battle focuses on taking down siege weapons or walls depending on what side of the situation you face. Stay alert, use generous amounts of AoE, and keep focused on killing enemies and maintaining objectives.

Well that’s all we’ve got to say about PvP as a Mage. If you’re interested in talking shop with fellow Mages or want to ask some PvP oriented questions then why not join us in our forums?

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our World of Warcraft Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

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Get in the bush with David "Xerin" Piner as he leverages his spectacular insanity to ask the serious questions such as is Master Yi and Illidan the same person? What's for dinner? What are ways to elevate your gaming experience? David's column, Respawn, is updated near daily with some of the coolest things you'll read online, while David tackles ways to improve the game experience across the board with various hype guides to cool games.


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