Theorycrafting is a very complex part of modern raiding in World of Warcraft. There are hundreds of formulas and variables to figure out between you, the fireball in your hand, and the big snarling monster in front of you. Hit Rating doesn’t increase your damage but does increase your DPS by removing your chance to miss. Higher spell power increases the minimum and maximum damage and has a variety of coefficients for various spells. Critical Strike Rating works better for Fire Mages who get a 200% critical strike damage boost compared to Arcane which doesn’t get that high. There are so many numbers to figure out in a fight that it’s nearly impossible to do it by hand. That’s why many raiders rely on various data modeling tools to reconstruct a fight using various gear, gems, enchants, and talent specs. This way they can figure out what will provide them with the best possible DPS given a certain situation.

Mages are a rather simplistic (relative to other classes) when it comes to combat. A handful of spells are available and Mage rotations are very simple. That doesn’t mean things still aren’t complex and there is various data modeling software and techniques available. We’ll go through Rawr, Magegraf, and the good ‘ol manual way of figuring things out. We’ll kick things off with a program known as “rawr”.


“Rawr” (official site) is a very popular third-party program that does data modeling for a good number of classes through a module system. Druids, Mages, and many tank classes get a lot of love while Rogues, Warlocks, and Shamans have fewer updates or their modules are still in development. Rawr will take your talent build, glyphs, buffs/debuffs, gear, gems, and enchants and model your DPS, TPS (threat per second), and damage with various rotations. It’ll let you swap out gems, enchants, gear, and your spec to see how it affects your DPS. It’ll even break it down to DPS per rotation.

How can this help you? That’s an excellent question. It can help by modeling combat vs. an enemy boss and then tell you where you can optimize your spec, gear, enchants, gems, rotations, etc. It’s not 100% accurate because of how combat is variable (for instance Patchwerk will have no movement while Grobbulus will have you moving around all day). It will give you a good idea though of what’s the best and what’s not.

We’re going to focus mostly on the Mage aspect of the program since it does work for other classes. Their modules are similar, but their calculations are very different. If you’re wary of third-party programs or want something more simplistic, then continue reading below for some other options available. 

We’re going to assume you have the program, it’s installed, and you’ve opened it. When you’ve opened the program you’ll be at the following screen: 

Click to import your character from the WoW Armory which is a good first step. Then we’ll move on to here: 

This is the main screen and it might look complex and complicated but we’ll work through a lot of the daunting options and break it down into some easier to understand chunks. Let’s start with the left half of the screen. You’ll see four tabs for Stats, Talents, Buffs, and Options followed by your gear surrounding a giant block of text that rambles on about DPS, TPS, Strength, etc. Don’t panic - we’ll go over everything.

The first thing we’ll want to discuss is setting up your gear and knowing how to change it around. You’ll want to know this because you want to test out various changes to your gear. So we’ll start with a simple left click on any piece of gear. That’ll let you change it and even show gear that’s better and worse than what is currently in your slot. A right click will bring up the option to manually edit the piece of gear or add in new gear (say a new patch comes out and an update isn’t available yet) and a way for you to edit the gems. Below each piece of gear is the current enchant and left clicking on that will bring up the various enchants you can use.

Changing gear won’t matter if we can’t see what changes with it. In the middle you’ll see a long list of stats. These stats are modeled around the gear, gems, and options you’ve inputted into the program. So you can use this information to determine if you’ve got a positive or negative change. Of course we haven’t fully customized the program yet. Remember those tabs? Let’s move on to talents.

The talent screen is self explanatory. It goes over what talents you currently have so you can make adjustments. The buff tab is an important tab because if you run 10mans you may not have every buff available. So you’ll want to cater it to your guild. If you have someone who is kinda flakey on totems, you might want to run it with and without certain totems.

The options screen allows you to fine tune your encounter with the length, how often your DPSing, how many resists you have going, and some other settings. If you don’t know what they mean, then don’t change them.

On the right hand side you have “Comparisons” which is where the real deep gear comparisons go down. Choose a slot and sort through the gear and select which pieces you want to compare using the triangles on the side. If you go up top to Tools… then Optimize… you will be presented with an optimizer. This will thoroughly do damage calculations and tell you which gems and upgrades (from the allowable upgrades you choose) will be the best (using calculations). This goes a little bit more in-depth and provides a slightly better result.

That’s the basic rundown of the program. The main function I use it for is to compare possible upgrades and tweak my talents and my DPS. It’s not perfect because even if it does multiple calculations over and over again it will not be able to emulate Blizzard’s game 100% and doesn’t take into account movement, decursing, your reaction time, etc.

If you use something like WoW Web Stats, then you’ll want to look at those statistics like fight length, and port them over to help model for specific fights. It’ll really help make the data a lot more accurate if you’re running into inaccuracies.

[protip]Programs like rawr use simplistic calculations for figuring out the gains and losses from gears and combat. It's pretty accurate, but in the same sense it's not always going to be correct. Programs that use advanced combat simulation algorithms will often be better because they take the RNG into account (the random number generator that determines the amount of damage you do per hit). Therefore you should use programs like Rawr and the various spreadsheets out there as a tool towards a your ultimate goal.[/protip]


Magegraf is a Mage only tool for calculating Mage DPS. It’s online so no software to download (which is a good thing), but it’s very simplistic. Visit the site and enter your stats (easily obtainable from the WoW Armory) and then punch in the numbers. Now before you hit “calculate” go ahead and explore each dropdown; especially the “Display” one. You’ll want to set the outputs to various settings so you can see all of the information available.

When you hit calculate you’ll be presented with the output which can tell you the DPS with various abilities, mana consumption, timing, etc. It’s a good overall tool and you can even link it to others for their opinions.

Target Dummies & Recount

You want the most accurate data possible in the most accurate simulation possible? Well there are two ways to do it. The first is Patchwerk, and the second is target dummies. Patchwerk is the most accurate combat simulator because his fight involves no movement, no shields, and nothing else that will stop you from casting. He will also be fully debuffed and you’ll be fully raid buffed. So that’s going to give you the most accurate telling of your DPS. Combine with recount (click on your name to pull up the extra options) and you’ll be in stats heaven.

Then again, dragging your raid to Patchwerk just because you want to test some gear out isn’t going to be easy. That’s what target dummies are for. You’re not going to get a reliable idea of your DPS with debuffs and you’re not going to theorycraft with gear you don’t have. However, you can compare various rotations and swap between gear you currently have. With the right amount of money you’ll be able to respec and try out different specs using Blizzard’s mechanics.

In reality it’s tough figuring out what will happen if you change gears and specs. It’s why the world of theorycraft is so confusing because the “perfect” this and that can change because you spend a split second between casts due to lag or a movement heavy fight will see your DPS plummet. Luckily, as a Mage, you won’t have to worry too much about figuring things out. The worst class for it is Melee DPS, especially Rogues, who have to rely heavily on data modeling just to figure out the best way to stab people.

As always our forums are open to you for posting. Share your thoughts and ideas on the best way to theorycraft as a Mage. 

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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