Mage Madness – The Basics

My last Mage Madness post included a plea to new Mages: “seriously, stop hitting other buttons”. Well, the truth is that there are, indeed, times to hit other buttons at the appropriate times.

Going from Average to Almost Awesome!

This post will cover the basics of how I play my mage including some training dummy exercises to put it into action and see the impact on dps.  Knowledge is key here, so don’t use this to memorize a spell rotation.  Instead, use it to understand what’s happening and why damage goes up at certain times.  I’m still trying to figure out how to be the awesome mage that I want to be, but I’m getting closer.  Hopefully this information can help a few other mages who are also looking to achieve awesome.

NOTE: These are basic concepts.  This does not cover dealing with special raid situations, high movement or AOE fights.

Play Style – The Basics

DPS is Hard to Do

You will often hear me say how hard it is to DPS. It probably sounds like whining, but when all you have ever done is heal, which for me is done with the mouse and never requires me to change my target, then switching targets and casting spells while sometimes moving is really quite difficult.

The first thing I had to do was stop trying to play my Mage like a Holy priest using Holy Fire and “wanding” helpless creatures to death while leveling. This is now serious business.


I adjusted the keys I used for DPS. The biggest switch for me was moving my main spells to 2 different places. I like using my right hand for the bulk of my button mashing, so my main spells are now mapped to my number pad. Then I realized that when using the mouse to target or move (I’m still bad at turning with the mouse, but trying to practice), then I can’t easily use the number pad keys because my hand is on the mouse. The same goes for spells where I need to use the mouse to place the spell on the ground, like blizzard (which I really don’t use anymore, but you get the point). To solve this, I also have my most common spells and the special spells mapped to 1 – 5 so I can use my left hand to cast them easily.

Button Mashing Rocks!

When I first starting playing Mojjee, I thought I was doing pretty well. My only problem was that I was comparing myself to a Holy Priest. I was using Quartz for my casting bar. It has this cool feature where it factors in your lag to tell you when to cast your next spell. I would cast an Arcane Blast and then wait while I watch the bar for the next two seconds. As soon as it got to the red, I would cast again. I thought I was really getting the hang of this.

I was wrong. My dps wasn’t close to what I was seeing from other mages. Why couldn’t i get to that kind of DPS?

I decided to skip the guessing game of when I could cast next spell and just mash my Arcane Blast button as fast as I could. WOW! My DPS jumped way up. It seems like such a silly thing to impact play, but I guess it makes a huge difference. Now I get to pound my keys (which can be great stress relief) and stop worrying so much about the exactly perfect time to cast the next spell.

I suspect that this one concept probably had the biggest impact on my DPS.

Play Style – Spell Rotations

The approach for sustained DPS is pretty simple with a focus on being “mana aware”.

This information is paraphrased from Arcane Brilliance: Getting your mage up and running in 4.0.1. I SUGGEST YOU READ THIS ARTICLE FOR FULL DETAILS.

Phase I: Burn – Evocation and cool downs are available

This is great for short burst fights, or will be used at the start of a long fight and every 2 minutes after each Evocation.

Pop your cool downs (most importantly Arcane Power) and go all out spamming Arcane Blast as fast as you can.

The idea here is to burn through your mana pool doing maximum DPS until you get to 40 percent of your max mana. At this point, you’re popping Evocation, returning to max mana and beginning the next phase of the fight.

Goal: The goal of this phase is as much burst DPS as possible.  Cooldowns, potions and procs stack nicely for mages.  Use them all in this phase if you can.

Phase II: Mana Conservative – Evocation on Cooldown

This phase will get you through the 2 minute cool down on Evocation.

The concept at this point is to go with a rotation that allows you to stay at a consistent mana level for a long enough period of time to get your Evocation back. You want to stay somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of your mana pool during this phase.

The article linked above suggests casting Arcane Blast twice followed by Arcane Barrage (the other AB) or Arcane Missiles, if it procs (remember, you can’t cast it now unless it procs).

You should play with this and adjust it as needed. You may also want to prepare yourself to mentally adjust this on the fly depending on how your mana is holding up.  If there is a lot of movement in the fight, your mana may naturally sustain itself and there may be no need to use Arcane Missiles or Arcane Barrage.

When Evocation is almost ready again, return to spamming Arcane Blast (and pop your cool downs again) and freely burn your mana pool. Use Evocation and start over.

NOTE: The other spells you use in this phase are used only for the purpose of breaking the Arcane Blast debuff stack that increases damage and mana consumption.  Arcane Missiles and Arcane Barrage always provide less damage than Arcane Blast, so only use them for this one purpose.

Goal: The goal of this phase is maintaining your mana level as close to 100% of your mana (without intellect procs) as possible.  This stems from our Mastery bonus that provides an amazing damage increase that is proportional to our mana level.  As a side note, make sure you have lots of Mastery.

Putting it to Work

Head to the Raiding Training Dummy in Old Town. It’s time to practice. If you want, play around on the test dummy initially and notice your DPS before you try the following “tests”.

Make sure you have an addon like Recount running to view your dps while practicing on the training dummy.

Training Dummy Test #1 – The Burn Phase

The Burn Phase is the most fun. Make sure your Arcane Blast is on a hot key that is really easy for you to find / press. Mine is the number 7 on my keypad so I can use my right hand.

Test #1: Simply press the Arcane Blast key as fast as you can. It doesn’t matter if the spell is still casting. As soon as it ready to cast again it will trigger. This takes the guess work out of the timing.

Make sure you have Mage Armor and Arcane Intellect buffs. Check that you are using the Glyph of Mage Armor.

Press the button as fast as you can (don’t cast any other spells) until you are out of mana. Make a note of how long this took (probably not too long) and what your DPS was.

Training Dummy Test #2 – The Burn Phase Enhanced

Test #2: Now do the same as test #1, BUT this time cast Arcane Power and Mirror Image first. Then, immediately start spamming Arcane Blast as fast as you can.

Check your number again. Your numbers should go up significantly, but it should take you less time to run our of mana. This is important to understand.

Make a Pop Macro

Task: Make yourself a “Pop” macro that pops your cooldowns. I use this at specific times in the fights. If nothing else, use it toward the beginning of the fight until you learn how to better manage the timing. This combines the addition of Arcane Power and Mirror Image (plus trinkets and Mana Gem) into one button push.

Here is my macro:

/cast Arcane Power
/use 13
/use 14
/cast Mirror Images
/use Mana Gem

This will give you the following boost:

1. Arcane Power gives you a damage increase, but with a Mana use increase – this shortens the burn phase but makes it stronger.

2. Trinket procs generally give you some sort of damage boost through increased intellect, mastery, etc.

3. Mirror Images gives you extra dps, but most importantly reduces your threat during your burn phase.  If you ever use a Burn Phase at the start of a fight without this, you will pull aggro pretty quickly.

4. Mana Gem gives you more mana (fills up the extra mana pool you gain from some intellect procs), and if you have the talent for Improved Mana Gem you get a damage boost as well.

I have noticed that my weapon enchant and trinket (equip) procs both occur close to the start of each boss fight.  I start my Arcane Blast spam and then use my Pop macro as soon as on of these procs occur that increase my mana pool.  This allows me to utilize the extra mana from the Mana Gem.  However, if I go about 5 casts and it hasn’t proced yet, I’ll go ahead and use the macro.

Training Dummy Test #3 – The Mana Conservation Phase

Now we will test the more boring, but very important, Mana Conservation phase. The goal here is to be able to maintain your mana at a high level for approximately 2 minutes (between Evocation cooldowns).

You will using Arcane Blast as your main spell, still, but you will now also use Arcane Missiles and Arcane Barrage intermittently.

Test #3: Start out casting Arcane Blast (still using the button spam method), but now watch your cast bar to see when it’s actually triggering…you need to keep count. As the third Arcane Blast is casting, check to see if your Arcane Missiles have proc’ed. If it has, start spamming the Arcane Missiles button so it will trigger as soon as your Arcane Blast is finished. When it is almost done channeling, start spamming Arcane Blast again.

NOTE: if you are on your third Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles has not proc’ed, start spamming the Arcane Barrage button until it goes off, then go back to Arcane Blast.

This sequence is a little “clunky” at times with trying to cast as fast as possible and weaving in the other spells. Don’t worry too much if you accidentally mess it up a little.

Keep trying this to get a feel for it. The goal is to maintain close to 100% mana for two minutes.

Goal: The goal is to determine the maximum number of Arcane Blast casts you can use in a row between Arcane Missiles while maintaining your mana. As your gear improves, this will move from 3 to 4 to 5 to 6, etc.

Personal Note: At my current gear level, I can usually go 5 or 6 Arcane Blast casts in a row and be flexible to always wait for an Arcane Missiles proc.

How to See if Arcane Missiles Proc’ed

Blizzard now has an in-game notification of the Arcane Missile proc. It shows on my screen as rounded brackets in the center of my screen. It’s pretty obviuos to see. Play around with this, to make sure you can identify it easily.

If in doubt, assume it hasn’t proc’ed and use Arcane Barrage. The only issue with this approach is that it uses more mana. Arcane Missiles is a mana-free cast, so it is generally better for your mana conservation phase. So use it when you can.

Training Dummy Test #4 – Timed Mana Conservation Phase with Evocation

Test #4: Same as test 3, but this time use your Evocation at the start. Make sure you can see the cooldown for this spell on your screen. Now use your casting style from test #3 to conserve mana until this spell is available again.

As soon as it’s available, or almost available, move into the burn phase to use up the rest of your mana. You should be getting low on mana (between 0% and 40%) mana by the time yourEvocation is available.

NOTE: there is a talent that decreases the the cooldown of Evocation to 2 minutes. Make sure you have that.

Putting it into Action – Trash Pulls

Trash pulls are generally quick fights. Your goal here is to use Arcane Blast almost exclusively. Only move into your mana conversation rotation if necessary. I can generally burn the mobs (single target) with Arcane Blast and adding in a Evocation if it is off cool-down and needed.  Drink between pulls and start over.

Putting it into Action – 5 man Heroic Bosses

The non-Zandalari heroic bosses generally go down pretty fast. If the other dps is pretty good, i’m able to use the following approach:

Arcane Blast x 3 (or wait for procs)
Pop Macro – Arcane Power, Arcane Missiles, trinkets, Mana Gem
Continue to spam Arcane Blast
Evocation at about 20%
Resume spamming Arcane Blast
Conserve mana if I get to 40% mana and it doesn’t look like the fight will end before I’m out of mana.

NOTE: the Zandalari 5 mans may require an approach similar to raid bosses if overall DPS isn’t high enough for a quick fight.

Putting it into Action – Raid Bosses

Raid boss fights last much longer. You’ll need to go through several rotations of your Burn and Mana Conservation phases.

Burn + Pop (generally lasts 15 – 20 sec)
Conserve for next 1 min 45 sec
Burn until Evocation up
Conserve for next 1 min 45 sec
Burn until Evocation up

Use your pop trinket in each of the burn phases. All of the items might not be off cooldown, but it’s good to get in the habit.

Adjust the timing of your phases based on the boss fight, especially if there is a required burn phase in the encounter where the group will also be using heroism.  You want to make sure you have full mana at the start of the pre-defined burn phase, your cooldowns are up, and evocation will be available when your mana gets low.  This can be tricky, but you will be very happy with your dps if you can time.

Happy Raiding!


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