Updated Mon, Aug 29, 2011 by Xerin
If you are here because you want to know how to use your Mage in combat, it is likely that you have already completed the sometimes arduous task of picking a spec for your Mage. Now its time to move onto more important matters; actually learning the basics of how to use your Mage. Be aware that most of your skill will come from in game experience and much trial and error, but hopefully this guide will at least give you a nudge in the right direction. Continue reading below for more information on Mage combat:
Soloing as a Mage (or any class for that matter) is not overly difficult. Really you could probably roll your face across the keyboard and mange to get something done. However, you do need to exercise some caution as the Mage can be taken down rather easily by enemies if they manage to get to close. So because of this soloing as a Mage will become a combination of keeping your enemies at a distance and killing them quickly. Thankfully Mages are powerhouses, who have no trouble taking out most enemies, the problem arises with keeping them at a distance.
Thankfully the Mage is well equipped with a variety of tools to allow “kiting” of mobs to be possible. Not to mention their polymorph spell which can easily take an enemy out of the equation temporarily. Read more about both of these abilities in the sections below.
Like the powers of Arcane that this tree draws from the Arcane Mage will form a rotation based on a burst of DPS then a lull that will be based around mana management. Your burst (or burn) cycle will consist of an Arcane Blast spam that will undoubtedly consume a ton of mana making you want to run to your mommy. As soon as you consume enough mana to make it worth it, the Mage should use Evocation. This will mark the beginning of the next cycle.
The next portion of the Arcane cycle in which the Arcane Mage will focus on (hopefully) regaining and keeping their mana above 90% will consist of casting Arcane Blast two or three times just enough to maintain the stacks, and then using Arcane Missles to fill in the gaps. Once the Evocation timer is off of cool down the Mage should rotate back to the burst cycle mentioned above.
While the “burst” cycle is the most important phase for the Arcane Mage, as it does the most damage, you may want to start out with your mana regaining cycle, as it will draw less aggro at the beginning of a fight. Once the tank has aggro, you should instantly begin the burst cycle to get the Evocation cool down timer started as soon as possible. The more times you can use the burst cycle in a fight the better.
Looking to do some epic Arcane AoE damage? Well you may have picked the wrong spec for that, but when in need you can use that old time favorite of Arcane Mages; Arcane Explosion. However, be sure to note that this spell will require you to put yourself in the middle of angry mobs and could result in your death. Because of this some Arcane Mages choose to use Flamestrike or Blizzard instead.
Those Mages who choose the way of Fire will have many rotations to choose from. Each rotation should be used depending on the particular situation the Mage finds himself in. See the rotations below:
Frostfire Orb - Should be used on EVERY cool down without fail.
Burst Rotation - Requires the Mage to chain cast Fireball, keep Living Bomb up, and use Pyroblast when Hot Streak procs. This is the highest DPS rotation for the Fire Mage on a single target. This rotation consumes much mana and cannot be maintained for long periods of time. Because of this use this rotation in these situations: to burn off extra mana, when a boss is weakened, during powerful procs, after Spellstealing powerful DPS boosting buffs.
Mobile Rotation - Some fights will require you to move around quite a lot to avoid an untimely death. In this case the Mage will want to cast Scotch, Pyroblast, Living Bomb, Flamstrike, and Blastwave. All of these spells allow the Mage to remain mobile while still doing some damage.
Mana Friendly Rotation - This rotation will help the Mage conserve mana which will be very important in longer fights. During this rotation the Mage will rotate using Scorch and Fireball. Usually the Mage will use this rotation to prepare for the Burst Rotation mentioned above.
Out of Mana Rotation - While we all try to avoid it at one time or another we will find ourselves totally out of mana. During this time the Mage should revert to simply casting Scotch and Pyroblast on Hot Streak procs until the Mage is able to obtain more mana or the fight ends.
Those Mages who choose the chilly path of Frost will find that this spec is much more straightforward than the other Mage specs and requires more watching and knowing your cool downs than anything else. Master your cool downs and you can master the Frost Mage.
Frostfire Orb - Should be used on EVERY cool down without fail.
Icy Veins - Because of its long cool down time you will want to be sure to use it at the most opportune times. This means you will almost always want to use this spell when Bloodlust is active which usually occurs near the end of the fight. Depending on the length of the fight you may be able to use Icy Veins at the beginning of a fight and at the end as well.
Deep Freeze - As you may know, Deep Freeze can only be used on a target that is frozen which can only be achieved while Fingers of Frost is active during a boss fight. Using your Water Elemental’s Freeze can greatly assist in this. Saving Freeze for when Deep Freezes comes off cool down is the best method so it can be used in a timely manner.
Cold Snap - During a typical boss fight the Mage will only want to use this cool down during Bloodlust which typically falls at the end of the fight. In the best situation Frostfire Orb and Deep Freeze will both be used just before Bloodlust becomes active. Once active Icy Veins would be used followed by Cold Snap to remove the cool downs from Fingers of Frost, Deep Freeze and Icy Veins.
Now that you know about Frost’s cool downs your rotation (or priority list because of cool downs) as this spec should look should look something like this: Deep Freeze, Frostfire Orb, Brain Freeze (with Fingers of Frost), Ice Lance (with Fingers of Frost), Frostbolt. Combine this rotation with the knowledge of when to use the cool downs above. Looking to do some AoE damage as a Frost Mage? Most Frost Mages will fall back on Blizzard to not only slow enemies (if you have the proper talents) but do some awesome AoE.
Kiting is one of the most basic and important techniques a Mage can do. To break it down kiting is dragging an enemy around by snaring or slowing it while you methodically DPS it down. The Mage (especially the Frost Mage) is equipped with a variety of spells to make this technique easy to achieve including: Frost Nova, Ice Armor, Cone of Cold, Frostfire Bolt, and Frost Bolt.
The easiest way to kite an enemy is using Frost Nova. The Mage simply will sling a few spells at a mob, wait till it comes within range, then casts Frost Nova to bind it to the ground. Once the mob is incapacitated the Mage will want to put some distance between himself an the mob. Run or use Blink to achieve this then begin to throw more spells at the mob. Repeat this process till the mob is dead.
This method can also be used in PvP, however, please note that a Mage’s snares can be dispelled and are not fail proof.
Polymorph is but one of the many tools available to the Mage, however, it may be one of the most important. Working only on Beasts, Humanoids, and Critters the Polymorph spell transforms the enemy into a harmless animal (sheep, cat, pig, rabbit, turtle, or even turkey). Once transformed the mob becomes harmless and is forced to wander aimlessly for up to 50 seconds. Only one enemy may be Polymorphed by a single Mage at a time. Multiple Mages may Polymorph multiple targets.
The down side of this spell is that while Polymorphed any damage you have done to the mob will likely be undone. While under the effects of Polymorph a mob quickly regenerates health. That being said used properly the Polymorph spell can be an invaluable tool that can save the life of the Mage and his or her allies.
Polymorph can be used in PvP to take enemies players out of the battle, while soloing to offset an ambush of two or more mobs, or even in group settings to make large or difficult pulls more manageable
One of the most important things that every DPS needs to be aware of is their aggro and how to manage it. Remember, if you are dead, you aren’t doing any damgae and are therefore useless to your group. To begin lets go over a simple definition of aggro and how it works.
Aggro is rated aggression or threat a mob has towards a certain player. Each mob has a table that tracks the threat points for all targets that it is currently aware of. Ignoring abilities that generate extra threat, each point of damage basically generates one point of threat. The mob will attack (or aggro) the target that currently has the most threat points against it.
Threat can become very complicated and confusing, especially when dealing with large groups of mobs. Almost any action a player takes (healing, damage, shields) will gain aggro on one or more mobs. Learning what to cast, when to cast, and when to stop casting will come with experience in game. However, for an easy way to gauge your threat, consider downloading one of the many great threat meters out there (such as Omen). Or if you don’t like to introduce add ons into your game; simply make use of the in game threat meter provided by Blizzard! Keep an eye on your threat meter at all times to keep yourself and the rest of your group alive!