Updated Fri, Oct 23, 2009 by Xerin
By now you should have a good grasp on what kiting is, even though you’ve probably never used it much. Previously we discused kiting at length even if for the first thirty levels you can pretty much spam Frostbolt or Fireball and come out on top. At around level 35-40 kiting becomes a necessary effort in order to minimize damage to yourself from stronger enemies and most importantly to allow you the fastest possible spell casting speed. See, everytime you take a direct hit (from a spell, arrow, sword, etc.) your casting time is pushed back a little bit. Some abilities can prevent that.
You may think that Frost Mages are kings of kiting but that’s a misnomer. While hurling massive chunks of frozen doom at your enemies will snare them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to consistently kite. Frost Mages at level 40 get an ability known as “Ice Barrier” that absorbs 438 damage and is recastable every 30 seconds. The barrier will prevent pushback as long as it holds (just like Mana Shield) so you can cast normally. Furthermore, Frost Mages have Icy Veins which completely stops pushback. So pushback isn’t necessarily a big issue for a Frost Mage.
However, a Fire Mage has only one defense against pushback and that’s Burning Soul and only stops pushback 70% of the time. So if an enemy is going to get more than a few hits in on you then you’re going to probably get your casting delayed. So it’s more important to a Fire Mage who lets an enemy get close enough to them to hit them to put some more distance between them. Of course, difficult enemies like anything colored Orange or elites are defiantly going to want to be as far away from the thin papery armor of a Mage as possible.
At level 40 there are some more tricks you can do for kiting. Let’s first go over when and where you should kite and when you should just stand your ground. If the enemy gets to you and it’s below 20-30% health and is just a regular mob then you should just finish it off. If it’s above 30% health then you’re going to want to do some minimal kiting. If it’s above 50-60% health, elite, or a very high level then you’re going to want to go all out.
The first trick is the same one we learned before. When the enemy gets to you simply cast Frost Nova and stand back. This is going to give you enough time to cast another spell (which should be enough to finish off any near dead enemies). The next trick is the same thing, but with more distance. When the enemy is nearly at your toes spin your camera around behind you. When you’re done with your last spell push your character forward (using your mouse makes this easier), cast Frost Nova, and then Blink. Spin your camera back around and push your character forward again. Using the default controls you can spin your camera by clicking on your character and you can push yourself forward by mousewalking (pressing in both mouse keys). This will put a few yards between you and the enemy and allow you to go right back to casting.
If the enemy is something that you’re going to want to have chasing you for a while then you’re going to want to have Benny Hill playing and utilize a spell known as Cone of Cold. If you’re a Frost Mage you’re not going to have to worry about snares but Fire Mages will want to turn towards their enemy, use Cone of Cold, and then run/blink as far away before casting another spell. Using an instant snare like Cone of Cold will give you some maneuvering room.
Mastery of the Flame
My personal favorite for leveling is fire because you’ll have the enemies dead before they get to you but it’s not the most mana efficient spec in the world. The goal of fire is to obliterate the enemy before it gets to say hello and if you can achieve that then you’ve got the game beat. You might spend more time sitting on your butt drinking down strangely flavored water and getting fat off of sticky buns but you’ll spend less time staring at the magic fly towards your enemies burning them to a crisp.
Before we get into rotation and tactics, level 40 is a good time to switch from Fire to Ice if you feel that you don’t have enough gear to pull off fire (a subjective feeling) or you’re just not burning enemies before they get to you. If this is the case then switch on over to Frost. At level 41 you’ll get Summon Water Elemental which really makes it worthwhile.
The rotation is the same as before. Fire doesn’t add any tricks along the way and until 80 you’ll pretty much be following Pyroblast, Fireball, Fireball, Fireball and then Fireblast. Easy to do, easy to understand, and when you’re out of mana just sit and regen. Skills like Blast Wave and the rest will only drain your mana and get in the way. As long as you stick to the basics you’ll be speeding through to sixty.
Here are a few tips. Be sure to get as far away from the enemy as you can without taking too much time when you start your first Pyroblast. If you’re careful you can get as many as two Fireballs off and start on a third before they reach you. If you’ve trained your wand ability up you can also wand enemies to death instead of using Fireblast to save yourself some time.
At level 51 you’re going to get an ability known as “Living Bomb” which will enter into your fire rotation if you so choose. At level 51 it’s going to do a total of 918 damage or thereabouts, or one Fireball and it costs a good deal of mana. If you want to use it, feel free to, but I’m not necessarily going to recommend it on anything but the more difficult enemies.
The frozen lands of Northrend may be calling to you but you’ll have 30 levels from level 40 before you can set foot there. In the meantime there are ways to streamline playing as Frost. At level 40 you’ll get Ice barrier which is a major boon. It’ll keep damage away from you, prevent pushback (as discussed before), and extend your health. It costs mana but the cost is minuscule versus the speed and the already efficient use of mana that Frost has. So you’re going to want to start every battle with it up. I suggest binding it to a easy to use key so that you can press it often.
At level 41 you’ll have access to something called “Summon Water Elemental”. This ability will summon a pet for a short duration that casts a Frostbolt and can freeze enemies to the ground. This ability is vital because a lot of your damage will start coming from critical strikes. You should have Shatter which will increase your critical strike chance by 50% against frozen targets. You’ll add on your passive critical strike chance on top of that and then you’re going to have an almost sure fire crit. The Water Elemental can give you two free freezes while it’s up, tank a little bit (but it’s no Voidwalker), and do a good deal of damage. Overall you’re going to want to have it up as much as possible. Look into the Water Elemental glyph while leveling.
So if you’ve got your Water Elemental up and your Ice Barrier rocking then what do you do next? Well press CTRL-1 or the pet attack key to get your pet going against your target. Start casting Frostbolt and right before it’s done cast Freeze on the enemy. Your Frostbolt should hit for a critical strike (if not, oh well). Then spam Frostbolt until dead. Like Fire there isn’t much else in the Frost arsenal that’s going to compare to Frostbolt for single target damage.
If the target gets close to you and has a good deal of health then cast Frost Nova, step back or utilize a kiting technique (from above) and then cast another Frostbolt. If the enemy is weak and your barrier is holding then there is no reason at all to move, just use Frost Nova for the increased critical strike chance.
If you’re leveling using the Arcane school then there isn’t much for you to do outside of casting Arcane Missile and maybe fire off an instant Fireball every now and then. I highly discourage you from leveling with Arcane and instead suggest choosing Fire or Frost. If you’re still wanting to, then your rotation is simple. Use Arcane Missiles as much as you can and use Mana Shield to help stop the channeling pushback.
Mage Friendly Adventuring
Running around Azeroth in a robe (or as some may call it a dress) isn’t exactly the best idea you’ll have. Most everything outside of a city has sharp claws and ill intent so there isn’t much respite to be had outside of the safety of a city. Some zones are better than the others for the Mage, but the Mage isn’t nearly as frail as you’d think.
40-50 Tanaris: Tanaris offers one major neutral city and a ton of quests that are Mage friendly. The entire Wastewander line and the pirates are all easy humanoids that are not very magic resistant. Finish the zone as much as you can before you move on because it’s like the STV of 40-50.
40-50 Feralas: This is the zone of choice for Horde and does offer the Alliance a good deal of quests in the 40-45 range. Some of the enemies aren’t exactly the best to kill due to large amounts of wandering aggro, but it’s not the worst zone to be in. This is the place whenever Tanaris has nothing more to offer.
40-50 Hinterlands: Both the Horde and Alliance have major encampments here and there are a lot of quests to be had. As far as Mages go this is kind of an iffy zone due to how many enemies are always wandering around, invisible wolfs, and the entire troll city often causing you to pull more than you can chew. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic place to level.
43-50 Searing Gorge: Not exactly the best place to level, but suitable. If you need somewhere to dip to then this is the place, but many of the enemies are rather difficult or come in pairs.
45-55 Blasted Lands: A place few people visit these days, but has a few easy quests that you can drop in and pick up on the quick.
50-58 Burning Steppes: Mark this place down as somewhere to go when you need a few quests extra to hit a level, but otherwise avoid. A lot of enemies here have high fire resistance and can be a problem.
50-60 Plaguelands: Most of your quests to 60 will be in the plaguelands (western and eastern). They’re not going to ding you 60 alone, but they’re perfect for the Mage. Lots of undead create plenty of easy enemies to take care of and a lot of the quests are easy to do and can be made easier by the Mage’s abilities.
55-60 Winterspring: When you’ve exhausted the Plaguelands then roll into Winterspring. While it’s a frozen area you won’t find much that’s immune or resistant to Frost. Mostly bears and Furbolgs reside here ready to maul at your papery defenses. Kind of a barren zone questwise, but enough to keep you busy.
55-60 Silithus: I wouldn’t even say Silithus is a Hunter friendly zone, much less a Mage. Many of the quests are difficult and the enemies swarm all over the place. If you reach 58-59 and end up here then you may want to head on into Hellfire.
58+ Hellfire Peninsula: Many people will say wait until 60 but if you’re stuck in a zone like Silithus you may want to just step in, get some gear, and then head back out until 60 or just start here. I’ve started two characters in Hellfire at 58 and had no problem getting sixty even before the experience boost. If nothing else just get some of the starting quest gear and head back out (making sure to set your bind point to save yourself a walk).
Between 40 and 60 there is only one quest for the Mage and that’s into the Sunken Temple. There is no reason at all to do that quest unless you’re going to visit that instance. If you’re curious about it, it starts from your trainer which goes to Archmage Xylem in Azshara. He’ll give you a simple quest, do it, and then head into the Sunken Temple and kill Morphaz. Pick up the [Fire Ruby] since it can restore 1-500 mana. The items become nearly useless after sixty though.
What gear from where? Well there isn’t much in the way of amazing gear for casters like there are weapons for melee. You’ll want to run the Scarlet Monastery at 40 and get Whiteman’s Chapeau. After that a Zul’Farrak run for experience and the various caster gear there should be enough to hold you off until after 60. If you run any instances be sure to focus on the XP and not the gear, since spell damage isn’t going to come in high enough doses until 58 from Outland.