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Gearing Up the Mage

Updated Fri, Oct 23, 2009 by Xerin

Grieving Spellblade
Binds when picked up
Main Hand Sword
70 - 227 Damage, Speed 1.80
(82.6 DPS)
+33 Stamina
+40 Intellect
Requires Level 80
Improves critical strike rating by 37
Improves haste rating by 27
Increases spell power by 408
Equipping a Mage is much like loading a glass cannon to fire at a neighboring ship. The Mage wears cloth armor only, like all primary casters and has a small assortment of available weapon types to wield. This means that their damage comes not from fists or inner rage but calculated magical attacks that fly from the Mage’s hands while their defense comes from magic and a thin paper like substance we call “cloth.” It’s true you won’t see a Mage tanking Kel’Thuzad anytime soon, but there is still a lot to discuss on what is needed and what isn’t for Mages.

Weapon & Armor Types

Before we go anywhere we need to know exactly what a Mage can and cannot equip. Armor is simple and to the point. The only armor that can be worn is cloth. Heartier types like Leather, Mail, and the stalwart Plate armor types can never be equipped. Many see this as the primary disadvantage to the class since you’ll always take massive amounts of damage with your armor as thick as tissue paper. However it must be noted that you can use magical abilities to augment your defense. Various magical shields are available that can increase your armor, block attacks of certain elements, and more.

As for weapons you can equip swords, daggers, off-hand items, and of course staves. Choosing what weapon type to use is a long and complicated process that... ok, I’m just kidding you. You can figure out which is best for you in a quick and easy process. It’s easier to compare two items together, like what you have and what you can get. Take what you currently have (say a staff) and add up all of the stats it provides you. For a staff add your enchants too (which count as 2-handed weapons). Now add together the stats for the main weapon (sword/dagger) and off-hand and the enchant for your main weapon. If you get more stats with one set than that one is the winner. There is no clear way to determine which is best at any given time because there is no clear advantage to one or the other.

It should be noted that Mages do suck at hitting things with their fists, pointy objects, or sticks. This usually just makes enemies mad and increases their desire to bite, claw, gnash, or a variety of other not-too-nice things. So don’t worry about weapon skillups on anything but your wand (and do try not to get in fist fights in the pub). That brings up to the last major weapon type. Mages don’t get totems or sigils or anything to put in their ranged slot. They get the generic magical wand. This one of course can’t summon rabbits from a hat but it can do an ok bit of damage and give you some stats.

What to Look For™ – Levels 1 - 79

While leveling up there is only a few things you need to worry about. By a few things I mean two: Intellect and Stamina. When you hit Outland and Northrend you’ll really start getting a ton of gear that adds critical strike rating and damage, but you won’t really need to care. Just take whatever gear is better for the long run. I would suggest that if given the chance pick up any instance gear you can, but a Mage isn’t gear dependant. More armor or bigger staves aren’t going to compensate for any lack of magical potency you have, not at least until higher levels. Gear will mostly bring about a little bit of damage, more health, and a few neat additions that help a little. Trinkets are often rare to find outside of engineering until 60 so don’t put too much attention to them. Purchasing gear from the Auction House is a general no-no. Not only are instances always the way (if you can get someone to run you through them) but since your damage is magical there is no need to get a high DPS weapon and a few points of Intellect aren’t going to make you an all-star grinder. At level 80, of course, all of your gear will come from instances or PvP so keep that in mind.

What to Look For™ – Stats

Mages are lucky because there isn’t a whole lot they need to look for. Some classes have to balance nearly every conceivable statistic in the game all at once into their gear. Mages on the other hand just need a few things. Intellect, Stamina, MP5 (Mana per 5/sec) (PvE), Spell Hit (PvE), Resilience (PvP), critical strike rating, and spell damage. How much of each really depends on each player’s taste, too. It’s really subjective with no clear winners
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Intellect is needed for spell damage and comes standard on almost every piece of cloth and weapon that a Mage will desire. Stamina is as close to defense as you can get from items and you’ll want to pile it on to compensate for the lack of armor and defense. As a small note… no one really has figured out how stamina and brains can be given by weapons or armor yet. It seems kind of weird that you put on a silly robe, a funny hat, and wield a giant big stick and all of a sudden you’re one of the smartest and heartiest people in the world.

Moving on, spirit is useful and don’t neglect it, but don’t obsess over it along with MP5. Critical strike rating and spell damage are all up to the player and what they wish to focus on for their build. You can get and load up on critical strike rating and focus on getting most of your damage from the crits or you can focus on damage and increase your constant damage. Either way, you’ll be getting a lot from your gear anyway.

If you absolutely must be told what to get then get critical strike rating and stamina for PvP and then get spell damage and intellect for PvE. A good judge of what to get for the current trend for both is the set items available. You’ll want critical strike rating and stamina for PvP because you’ll want to be able to soak up enough damage to live and do as much burst damage as possible. For PvE things are a little bit different. You want as much mana, mana regen, and damage as you can get. Again, this is subjective and based on what builds you want to use.

What to Look For™ – Armor

Since all you can wear is cloth then you’ll be pretty much limited to that. Armor would be a non-factor if it wasn’t for diminishing returns. As a Mage you’ll get more per armor point than a warrior who has a foot of metal between them and their enemy. Sacrificing stats for armor is a no-no though, for both PvE and PvP. Outside of that, see above on which stats you need to use and follow through with your armor choices. Consider set bonuses when choosing. An item may drop that’s better than what you currently have but may remove a set bonus which makes the current item the “better one.”

The tier 7 PvE set is known as Heroes’ (10-man) or Valorous (25-man) Frostfire Garb. The 10-man set includes 284 stamina, 293 Intellect, 388 spell power, 69 spell hit, 190 critical strike rating rating, 66 haste rating, and a few other bonuses. The 25-man set gives 333 stamina, 345 intellect, 443 spell power, 81 spell hit, 218 critical strike rating rating, and 102 haste rating. Other pieces of gear are available from Naxxramas and onward that are very very nice for high level PvE orientated Mages.

What to Look For™ – Weapons

You’ll want a high DPS wand while leveling up but outside of leveling it becomes just a stat booster. For weapons you can read the debate above on main-hand/off-hand and staves, but in general look for the weapon combo that gives you the biggest boost after enchants.

What to Look For™ - Trinkets

To start with let’s get over the obvious. If you’re PvPing get the Medallion of the Horde/Alliance.  If you don’t, then have a good reason not to (there are a few, but not many). Outside of that you can get the Sundial of the Exiled to start with. It’s purchased with badges. From there you can move up to a Dying Curse or Embrace of the Spider from Naxxramas. If you’re lost, the Sundial of the Exiled gives you 84 critical strike rating and a proc that gives you 590 spell damage for 15 seconds.  Dying Curse gives 71 hit rating (great for PvE) and can give you a proc for 765 spell damage for 10 seconds. The Embrace of the Spider gives 98 spell power and a chance to get 505(!) haste rating.

That’s at a higher level though. On your way up you’ll probably encounter a few trinkets here and there. Anything that can fit in the slot and help you is what you’ll want. You really won’t need to focus too hard on finding them until you’re 80. While you’re 70 you’ll even get a few from questing that’ll increase your damage when activated. The older badge trinkets from Outland are also pretty good (but can get replaced with quests from Northrend).

What to Look For™ – Enchants, Gems, and Glyphs

Discussing enchants is like discussing politics. There is always someone who is going to argue another side. In this case it’s way less cool to do it in real life whenever you’re discussing intellect versus spell damage instead of red vs. blue. Just remember this when picking enchants. Mages are like waffles with Tabasco sauce all over them. They’ll bend around a bit but will break and they have a kick. So focus on damage and defense. Critical strike rating if you’re leaning that way and damage if you're leaning the other. As for gems, go with what you get until you can get picky and then follow the same advice.

For Glyphs you’re going to have an easy choice since there isn’t a lot. For minor glyphs, pick up the Slow Fall one for sure and from there it honestly doesn’t matter. For Major you’re going to want to talk to your guild if you’re raiding (to make sure there is no overlap) but the Polymorph glyph is very nice for instances. The additional critical strike rating for a Frostfire build is nice with the Frostfire glyph. Evocation will give you 60% of your health back and 6 seconds of curse immunity from the Remove Curse glyph may be able to save a raid. It’s all up to personal taste. Weigh in what you need for any encounters and what abilities you use most. Avoid ones like the Blink or Frost Nova one unless you’re just leveling up. Go for things that again boost damage or defense (in this case most will boost damage).


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