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World of Warcraft: MoP Arcane Mage PvE Guide

PvE Guide
Table of Contents:

1. Introduction
1.1 Notes for old Arcane players
1.2 5.1 Note
2. Core Abilities
3. Basic Gameplay without level 90 talents
3.1 AoE Gameplay
3.1.1 Clustered Targets
3.1.2 Spread targets
3.2 6-Charge camping using Scorch
3.3 How to start a raid encounter
4. Talents
5. Cooldown usage and special abilities
6. Glyphs
7. Stats
7.1 Introduction to Mastery and Haste playstyles
7.1.1 Mastery
7.1.2 Haste
8. Gear
8.1 Trinket rankings
9. Useful addons
10. Closing remarks
10.1 5.1 Remarks

1. Introduction

Greetings Arcane Mages and those who wish to be. This is my first guide and even though I’ve trained many Mages over the last few years of being a Class Leader/Officer in my guild, I still had reservations over writing a community guide. The guide is based on patch 5.0.4, my experiences with Arcane, research done for MoP and last but certainly not least, the endless community discussions we’ve had here for the last several months. I hope you learn something new or find the information you were looking for.

1.1 Notes for old Arcane players

New Arcane Mages, skip this short part, it will only confuse you.

The Arcane playstyle has significantly changed from our classic Burn + Evocation + Conserve gameplay. Burning mana using Arcane Blast effectively doesn’t exist anymore except in a limited version which will be explained later. The new Arcane is a far less bursty specialization, but more complex in mana management and ability usage.

1.2 5.1 Note

In Patch 5.1, Arcane go some significant number changes in terms of Arcane Charge mana cost reductions and damage modifier increases per stack. We liked it a lot as it bumped Arcane to a perfectly competitive level and it also introduced several new gameplay innovations, some as unwanted side-effects. Also note, some of the tooltips in the game might still be wrong (Arcane Charge, Blast, etc.).

2. Core Abilities

Arcane Charge – formerly known as stacks of Arcane Blast
- built by Blast, Missiles and Explosion, spent by Barrage
- stacks up to 6
- Arcane Explosion refreshes the duration of existing Charges with a 30% chance to generate a Charge, but is not affected by it in any other way

Arcane Blast – generates 1 Charge
- damage increased by 25% and mana cost by 75% per Charge

Arcane Missiles – cannot be used without procs, every damaging spell cast has a chance to proc Missiles
- stacks up to 2
- generates 1 Charge
- channelled
- damage increased by 25% per Charge

Arcane Barrage – damage increased by 25% per Charge
- hits 1 additional target per Charge for 50% damage
- spends all Charges

Arcane Power – increases the damage of all damaging spells by 20% and their mana cost by 10%

Mastery: Mana Adept – increases damage done based on the percentage of available mana
- this is the base and core of doing good damage as an Arcane Mage

Mage Bomb – discussed later in the section on level 75 talents, but belongs in the basic priority list

Mage Armor – increases Mastery by 5, thus making it the only viable Armor option for Arcane

3. Basic Gameplay without level 90 talents

0. Pre-combat buffs – Arcane Brilliance and Mage Armor (Mastery)
1. Mage Bomb – refresh Nether Tempest or Living Bomb when there is only one tick remaining or cast Frost Bomb if it’s off cooldown
2. Arcane Power – cast when off cooldown
3. Arcane Blast – generate charges
- if you are under 4 charges and have 2 Missiles procs, cast Missiles *once and then continue to build up to 5 Charges with Blast, after which you use any remaining Missiles
- if you reach 4 Charges with less than 2 Missiles procs, cast one more Blast and then Missiles
4. Arcane Barrage – use when you reach six Charges and have no more Missiles procs
- use at 5 Charges if there are no Missiles procs and you are under 90% mana

3.1 AoE Gameplay

3.1.1 Clustered Targets

1. Apply Bomb (or several Bombs - NT by multidotting, LB by Glyph of Fire Blast)
2. Flamestrike
3. Arcane Explosion
4. Arcane Barrage when number of targets = Charges + 1

Extra – if targets are CC-able, try to freeze them before Barrage

3.1.2 Spread Targets

1. Apply Bombs
2. Single target
3. Barrage if possible to hit multiple targets

3.2 6-Charge camping using Scorch

The 5.1 mana cost adjustment allowed for us to stay indefinitely at 6 Arcane Charges using the very cheap Scorch spell to fish for Missiles procs. This places heavy emphasis on Blast and Missiles. When at 6 Charges, cast Blast after every spell except another Blast, use Missiles every time they proc, use Scorch after Blast if you don't have anything else to cast. Example: Blast - Missiles - Blast - Nether Tempest - Blast - Scorch - Blast - Missiles - Blast - Rune of Power - Nether Tempest - Blast - Scorch - Blast - Scorch - Missiles...

3.3 How to start a raid encounter

0. Pre-combat buffs
0. Countdown:
7 seconds - cast Evocation if using Invocation
3 seconds - cast Rune of Power if using Rune of Power
Mirror Image
1. Mage Bomb
2. Blast to 6 Charges
2.1 Cast Incanter's Ward at 4-5 Charges if damage is incoming
3. Refresh Mage Bomb
4. Fish for Missiles procs until you have 2
5. Use Macro - Arcane Power, professions use abilities, Trinkets with use abilities, Mana Gem (optional), Alter Time
6. Missiles, Missiles, Blast, Barrage (if under the effects of Time Warp: Missiles, Missiles, Blast, Blast, Barrage)
7. Alter Time reactivates
8. Missiles, Missiles
9. Continue with usual rotation

4. Talents

Level 15 – Mobility Tier

Presence of Mind – great for occasional periods of short movement, otherwise a useful DPS cooldown

Scorch – works best with Fire because it adds to Ignite, bad for Arcane – repositioning quickly is a greater damage boost

Ice Floes – a neat spell for periods of predictable movement

Beginner tip – Presence of Mind is your safest bet, Ice Floes can be wasted if not used properly, and we are not really used to move and cast

Pro tip – mastering Ice Floes can be quite beneficial depending on the encounter, but will require practice even for the experienced Arcane Mages. Using PoM instead is perfectly fine.

Pro tip 5.1 - check 3.2 for the new Scorch gameplay

Level 30 – Defense Tier

Temporal Shield– usable while disabled and doesn’t trigger a global cooldown. Heals after 4 seconds instead of preventively absorbing damage.

Blazing Speed – not really that useful in PvE

Ice Barrier – a powerful absorb, but triggers a global cooldown

Beginner tip – Ice Barrier is a sure thing when your raid leader calls for defensive cooldowns or when you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Pro tip – Temporal Shield is the best for maximizing your damage, but be careful because it’s not an absorb in the classic sense.

Level 45 – Crowd Control Tier

Ring of Frost – only useful for a larger pack of adds and also has a cast time

Ice Ward – a great spell to put on an off-tank kiting adds or any dedicated kiter

Frostjaw – great for silencing adds which need to be interrupted

Tip – if the raid encounter demands it, you take it and use it, doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Level 60 – Survival Tier

Greater Invisibility – a powerful utility spell, can be used as a defensive cooldown or to cheat death mechanics

Cauterize – its greatest advantage is that it works on its own, its only weakness the easily healable damage which can be compensated by a shield spell or Evocation heal and of course, your group’s healers

Cold Snap – not that useful for raiding, but enables extra Ice Blocks and has a heal. The other two abilities are just far more versatile in PvE

Beginner Tip – Cauterize is a no worries talent because it doesn’t require you to actively plan and use it

Pro Tip – not taking unnecessary damage is (or should be) one of the goals of every DPS in the raid and Greater Invisibility allows just that. If timed properly with boss mechanics, you lose damage only for 1 global cooldown.

Level 75 – Bomb Tier

Nether Tempest – works best against 1-3 targets, currently the best damage choice on single target except for Frost Bomb critical hits

Living Bomb – works best against 3-4 targets because of the target limitation, but functions best when playing Fire as its basic gameplay implements spreading it to other targets

Frost Bomb– works best against 4+ targets, but also works best in Frost’s gameplay as it has a 100% chance to proc Brain Freeze

Tip – you won’t fail if you choose a bomb based on the number of targets, but Frost Bomb just doesn’t feel good on Arcane because of the cast time. Casting Nether Tempest on 2-3 targets still feels better in a dynamic raid setting, but I may be off the mark on this one. Still remember - Nether Tempest is better for several spread targets while Living Bomb is better for several clustered targets.

Level 90 – Superpowers Tier

Invocation – allows something resembling a burn phase
- changes the gameplay to:
1. Evocation
2. Standard rotation with being extra careful not to cast any more Blasts when reaching 6 Charges
3. When the buff is about to expire, burn mana to 30-35% with Blast, then back to step 1

- works best on fights with limited movement

Rune of Power – allows the 6-Charge camping gameplay (3.2)
- works best on fights with no to limited movement

Incanter's Ward – changes the gameplay to allow mini burn phases on fights with regular predictable damage – burn mana to 75-80% in preparation, pop shield to absorb damage and regain mana to full in time to use Missiles and Barrage
- best damage is gained by having 5-6 Charges and Missiles ready when you gain the damage buff
- works best on fights with lots of movement and predictable damage

Beginner tip – Incanter’s Ward is your best bet while you’re still learning the ropes of both the spec and raid encounters, because the passive on the shield is decent and you use the active when you remember or when you get the chance.

Pro tip – use the abilities based on the propositions above, focus on maximizing their usage. It will require knowing the fights by heart. A list of suggested talents per encounter will be formed when we start raiding on live realms.

5. Cooldown usage and special abilities

Fire Blast (with Glyph of Fire Blast) – not useful for Arcane, other than in longer periods of AoE damage

Blink – learn to maximize your damage with well timed and placed Blinks, running is not an option if this spell is ready

Counterspell – if your raid leader requires you to interrupt something important, you should do it. However, melee dps and tanks are still a better option for this so argue if needed

Ice Block – your ultimate survival cooldown, best used in emergencies or to cheat death mechanics

Remove Curse – help your healers, dispel curses if needed, as rare as it may be

Evocation – used as a powerful heal and a core ability of the Invocation gameplay. Essentially not required anymore otherwise unless you forget yourself and cast too many Blasts

Mirror Image – use on cooldown, it’s a decent DPS ability

Invisibility – a nice spell to remove threat or at the end of a wipe to stay alive and use Mass Resurrection

Spellsteal – there have been mechanics which required a Purge, Dispel or Spellsteal (Maloriak, Arcanotron). Sometimes it’s better for us to have the effect

Mana Gem – allows you to cast an extra Blast ot two and then instantly gets you to full mana to maximize the Mastery bonus on Missiles and Barrage

Time Warp – While I’ve always preferred Restoration Shamans to use it, if it’s needed, you cast it

Alter Time – Our amazing new level 87 spell allows us some fun things every 3 minutes. When you activate the spell, it memorizes your HP, mana, buffs, debuffs, procs and position (but not cooldown availability). It practically extends the duration of everything on you by 6 seconds.
- ultimate usage – check 3.3
- note – this spell can be used defensively in PvE, but it really shouldn’t

Tip – maximizing your damage will require you to master the usage of Alter Time, Mana Gem, Blink and Level 90 talents.

6. Glyphs

I will review only the relevant or potentially relevant glyphs for Arcane:

Glyph of Arcane Explosion – marginally useful for AoE situations

Glyph of Blink – confuses you at first if you were used to Blinking to a mailbox from a certain point, but can be very useful in raids

Glyph of Evocation – mandatory for all Mages I’ve been training since it appeared – helps your healers by being one of the most powerful heals in the game, but is also very useful with the level 90 talents

Glyph of Ice Block – can be useful, but is very situational

Glyph of Invisibility – great for solo farming and dungeons, not that great in raids (situational for very long movements)

Glyph of Mana Gem – very useful for Arcane on longer fights

Glyph of Spellsteal – situational for fights which require spellstealing

Glyph of Remove Curse – situational for fights which require decursing

Glyph of Arcane Power – very useful on fights which have periods of limited freecasting without movement and useful when you can predict the duration of a fight

Glyph of Slow – doesn’t have a chance to proc Missiles anymore and the Torment the Weak talent has been removed so this is basically useless for PvE

Glyph of Fire Blast – useful only for AoE situations

Glyph of Counterspell – can be useful on fights which require counterspelling so you never have to stop dps.

Glyph of Armors – would be good if you ever had to switch armors, but as Arcane you really don’t

Minor Glyphs:

Glyph of Loose Mana – in my personal game style, this isn’t a DPS increase (see Mana Gem in the previous section), but if you use it at 95% mana and then continue with Blast, the effect might be the same in terms of DPS. Additionally, Nathyiel has pointed out that the Loose Mana Gem buff is subject to Alter Time so it can be used for double the effect.

Glyph of Momentum – can be combined with Ice Floes to Blink while casting and strafing (I think, my testing was a bit inconclusive)

Glyph of Illusion – best used to confuse your Moonkin Guild Master during a fight

Glyph of Mirror Image – this is actually a dps increase for Arcane mages based on my testing. The Images don’t run out of mana like they used to by casting Blast. Without the glyph they did 80-100k on my tests and with the glyph 100-130k at level 85. I could test more to get some more accurate numbers but I don’t have an eternity waiting for them to come off cooldown.

7. Stats

Essentially: Intellect -> Spell Power -> Hit+Expertise to 15% -> Haste to 3056 (suggested 3300-3400) -> Mastery -> Haste -> Crit

Stat weight analysis using Simulationcraft is just a bit under these descriptions:

Intellect – a no brainer, provides Spell Power which makes the numbers higher.

Hit – if you don’t hit, you don’t do any damage and reaching the hit cap is your primary gearing goal

Expertise – since 5.0.4 provides Spell Hit chance, useful for early expansion reforging

Hit chance formula:
Hit Rating + Expertise Rating = 5100 (-340 if Human wielding a sword) (-340 if Gnome wielding a sword or dagger) (-340 if Draenei)

Mastery – our gameplay revolves around our Mastery (Mana Adept), which requires us to stay as close to 100% mana as possible. Mastery provides a flat damage increase

Haste – since patch 5.0.4, Arcane Blast’s cast time is no longer reduced by Charges and we got a new ability called Nether Attunement which makes Haste increase the mana regained from all sources (base regen, Evocation, Mana Gem, level 90 talents). You should have enough haste to reach specific DoT breakpoints while maintaining Mastery on every item.

Crit – our gameplay doesn’t depend on Crit (like Fire and Frost do) and since the all-mighty damage of Blast has been redistributed to other spells, Crit became even less powerful than before

7.1 Introduction to Mastery and Haste playstyles

With the 5.1 changes, many Arcane players have tested a Haste oriented playstyle instead of Mastery. The difference is essentially more spells vs. more powerful spells. It is, however, important to focus exclusively on one stat (with the exception of Haste breakpoints) and not design something in between. Below is a presentation of both gearing options.

*Important* - Focusing on Mastery allows you to play either the Barrage rotation (standard) or the 6-Charge camping rotation. Focusing on Haste allows only the 6-Charge camping rotation because your spells are weaker and you must compensate by never dropping stacks.

*Also important* - Mastery oriented builds allow 6-Charge camping only with Rune of Power. Haste oriented builds allow it with both Rune of Power and Invocation.

*Also important* - Mastery oriented builds use Mage Armor (Mastery) while Haste oriented builds use Frost Armor (Haste).

7.1.1 Mastery


Hit/Mastery – nothing
Hit/Crit – Crit to Mastery
Hit/Haste – Haste to Mastery
Mastery/Crit – Crit to Haste or Hit
Mastery/Haste – nothing or Haste to Hit
Haste/Crit – Crit to Mastery

Note - reforge Crit or Haste to Hit/Expertise if missing Hit chance while focusing that every item has Mastery on it.


Intellect/Mastery gems in red sockets.
Mastery/Hit gems in blue sockets.
Mastery gems in yellow sockets.

7.1.2 Haste


Hit/Haste - nothing
Hit/Crit - Crit to Haste
Hit/Mastery - Mastery to Haste
Haste/Crit - Crit to Mastery or Hit
Haste/Mastery - nothing or Mastery to Hit
Crit/Mastery - Crit to Haste


Intellect/Haste gems in red sockets.
Haste/Hit gems in blue sockets.
Haste gems in yellow sockets.

Note - reforge Crit or Mastery to Hit/Expertise if missing Hit chance while focusing that every item has Haste on it.

8. Gear

Credit, along with my eternal gratitude, goes to Igloo for compiling a comprehensive list of all non-raid Intellect gear that used to be posted here.

The gear listings have been cut, it is now far enough into the expansion for new players to not have to worry about dungeon BiS items and I have no desire to update the guide as we get various LFR, normal and heroic modes unlocked. Next week I’ll consider adding a Normal Raid BiS list and a Heroic Raid BiS list, probably in the same style as the dungeon gear list, meaning no “this needs to be in this slot” but rather “this looks like the best item for Arcane”. However, don't expect it with 100% certainty.

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