World of Warcraft - Mage PVP Guide
Usually, the other World of Warcraft classes have their trees split up into a PVP tree, a PVE tree and a balanced tree that combines the two, or a support tree.
Although to some extent the mages have this form of split-up as well, it's much less visible since a mage can hold his head up in PVP with any spec, provided he took the right talents from that tree.
This Mage PVP guide will take you from all the basics of fighting a mage, such as having a good PVP talent build, getting the right gear and how to fight using each of the three mage talent trees: Frost, Fire and Arcane. In addition, you'll also find a part of the guide that shows you how to kill each of the other classes in a 1-versus-1 duel. Let's get to it then.
Mage PVP Guide – Talent Build
Admittedly, the Arcane tree might look like it's specifically aimed for PVP, with the 41 talent, Slow, being almost an exclusive PVP one. Climbing up this tree, you will gain access to a lot of very useful PVP talents, such as Arcane Power, Presence of Mind and the Arcane Concentration + Arcane Potency combination. It's not the most mana efficient PVP tree, with Arcane Power sucking up 30% more mana while active, or the Empowered Arcane Missiles costing more as a trade-off for more damage. Slow is a very useful talent in PVP, especially against melee targets, although the secondary effect of reducing casting times and ranged shots won't tickle any spell caster or hunter's fancy. If you're not going too deep in the Arcane tree, you can use it as support for the Fire or Frost trees. If you're going for at least Arcane Power, combine it with Fire, for the Presence of Mind + Pyroblast combo.
The Fire tree is all about burst damage in PVP, but you'll have less control than Frost and Arcane. You have versatile damage options, with slow casting big nukes such as Pyroblast, faster ones like Fireballs and Scorches, close-range spells like Blast Wave and Dragon's Breath that also have a slight crowd controlling ability, as well as the Blazing Speed skill, which allows you to handle melee opponents better (especially rogues and fury warriors that hit faster and have a higher chance to proc the blazing speed). As I said earlier, the Pyroblast + Presence of Mind or Arcane Power combination is great, but you can also combine the Fire tree with Frost talents for better control and survivability.
Frost is all about controlling opponents in PVP. Whereas Arcane and Fire excel against single targets, Frost is really valuable in group PVP where crowd controlling is emphasized. Besides the sheep, you will be able to better use Frost Nova, you will get an Ice Block to keep yourself alive and annoy the hell out of your enemies and your various chill and freeze effects will slow down your enemies until you can plan your next move. The 41 point talent, Summon Water Elemental is useful as both a source of increased DPS, or as a means of crowd controlling, with the Water Elemental's Freeze ability.
You can find several of the best mage PVP specs around these days by visiting our Mage Talent Builds Guide .
Mage PVP Guide – Gear
In your early PVP career, you'll have to use gear that you find in PVE, for PVP purposes. What you should focus on is gear with high amounts of Stamina and Intellect, with an emphasis for the latter for Fire and Arcane mages. Spirit should not be a priority, although it's useful to keep a wand and a staff with high spirit in your backpack and quickly switch to them when evocating, in order to get most out of it (use a macro to evocate and switch your weapons at the same time).
Burst damage specs like the Deep fire ones, or the Frost Shatter ones will benefit highly from +spell crit gear and high Intellect, but obviously, don't gimp your +spell damage too much. If you plan on PVPing while leveling up, check out our Mage 1-60 Gear Guide for a list of items you can get in Azeroth that could help you out in PVP. Useful PVP Outland gear can be found in our Mage Outland Gear Guide. Ultimately, once you get that honor flowing, you get the reputation or the arena points to buy it, PVP Gear Rewards will give you the exact stats and spell effects you'll be looking for.
Mage PVP Guide – Fire Mages
Fire mages have a huge nuke up their sleeve in PVP and the outcome of a battle is oftentimes determined by their ability to use this nuke (or the opponent's ability to counter it).
You don't have as much control as a Frost mage, but remember that doesn't mean your Frost Nova spell is useless. It can be used effectively to snare down an opponent long enough to get some range and open up a Pyroblast or a Fireball.
Since your main crowd control option will be your Sheep, use it wisely. Remember that your fire damage spells all leave a short DoT on the target, so you won't be able to re-sheep once your enemy is hit. The secondary form of controlling for Fire Mages is their short Daze effects from Blast Wave and Dragon's Breath. Don't go out wasting these spells initially, wait until that Daze can actually count. If you took improved counterspell in Arcane as well, you will be able to keep your opponent from healing himself, fearing or casting any damaging spells on you for a longer time.
Remember that you will eat mana up extremely fast as a fire mage, so you'd better get your opponents down fast, or you won't have the mana to live to regret it.
Mage PVP Guide – Frost Mages
Frost mages have an impressive combination of survivability and crowd controlling talents that makes them a versatile choice for all types of PVP. Whereas you won't have the same nuking ability that a Fire or Arcane mage will, your main source of power is constant and steady DPS and the ability to survive long enough to make it count.
Frost mages are also very useful in group PVP (moreso in 3v3 arenas and higher group combat situations) since they can take out several enemies out of combat.
You will also be able to hold your head up high in solo PVP, especially against melee classes that you can slow, freeze, or nova in place. The Water Elemental is a great addition in PVP but you'll have to learn when to use it properly. Combining Frost with Arcane gives you even more mana efficiency with less resists from Arcane Subtlety, free Clearcasting frostbolts or cone of colds and so forth.
One of the best burst damage combinations as a PVP frost mage is Frostbolt -> Cone of Cold -> Fireblast -> Cold Snap -> Cone of Cold -> Frost Nova. In a few seconds, you can get your opponent down to at least half life using this combo, after which you can just stall before your cooldowns are ready again, since your opponent will be frosted down (frost nova, ice block, blink, Water Elemental Freeze to buy yourself some time). Unlike fire mages who can use Dragon's Breath or Blast Wave at close range, you generally don't want to be caught up close to any other class as a frost mage. If the enemy gets too close, Nova him and move away so that you avoid any AoE, melee damage or short range AoE fears.
Mage PVP Guide – Arcane Mages
Improved Counterspell, Improved Mana Shield, Arcane Power or Presence of Mind are all great PVP talents, but this is not the most mana efficient tree you can climb up to.
If you go deep in Arcane and your damage spell of choice will be Improved and Empowered Arcane Missiles and Arcane Explosion, you will eat up mana like crazy. Combine that with Arcane Power and you will be mana-less in no time, but you will have also done a lot of damage by now.
Arcane is best supported by the Fire tree and the Presence of Mind + Pyroblast instant nuke is one of your most important techniques in PVP as an Arcane mage. Start off the fight with a sheep, then cast a normal Pyroblast down. Use Slow on your target and move away, casting Arcane Missles. Remember, you still have Frost Nova and Blink to use as an effective getaway technique from melee classes. If you can get a new sheep in (make sure the target is not still affected by the fire DoT from Pyro or Fireball), use Arcane Power and Pyroblast for devastating effect, then use your instant damage abilities (Fire Blast, Arcane Explosion, etc) to finish off your enemy.
Mage PVP Guide - How do I fight a…
Priest - A priest will most likely start the fight by applying Power Word Shield on, which negates a good part of your initial burst damage. A good way to get around this tactic is to Polymorph the priest, then allow the shield to pass, before starting the damage. If the sheep breaks, or the priest uses a poly-negation trinket, try to snare him down. This works best for Frost Mages of course.
Priests can dispel Frost Nova and chill slowing effects, but it takes them some mana and most importantly some time to do so. Stay as far away as possible, so that you don't allow him to use their close range fear (Psychic Scream) on you.
When fighting a skilled PVP priest with a good spec (shadow or disc) and equal gear level, the fight will probably be decided by your ability to use Counterspell when you need to, as well as the ability to know when to Polymorph your enemy. If you can get an initial nuke in (Arcane Power + Fireball/Frostbolt, Presence of Mind + Pyroblast, instant Fire Blasts and Cone of Colds) he'll start casting heals to get himself up before his Power Word Shield debuff passes away and he can pop another shield. Using Counterspell at this point can win you the fight and with Cold Snap, you can get your Cone of Cold back on to finish him off, or use Dragon's Breath/Blast Wave, Fire Blast or some Arcane Explosions to get him down.
One more thing worth knowing is that a priest will always try to keep a DoT on you constantly. If there are 10 or less seconds on the DoT and he still hasn't casted a new one, use Polymorph, wait for the DoT to pass and Bandage/Evocate. If you manage to pull off this trick, you've won the fight, no question about it.
Warlock - Warlocks are tough cookies, but they're not unbeatable. If you have your fear-breaking PVP trinket on and are quick on removing curses, you stand a fair chance. Fire Ward also helps if you're fighting a destruction lock, or one that is fond on Immolate. A warlock with Nether Protection will have the upper hand on a Fire mage due to the talent's ability to render the lock immune to fire damage for a short while after getting hit, but at the same time a Frost mage with Frozen Core will have an advantage over a Destruction lock , reducing the damage you get from Fire spells. The tactic for fighting a warlock depends on what pet he has out though.
Succubus - The Succubus has a relatively low health pool and it's easy to nuke her down leaving the warlock pet-less. If he's an affliction lock he won't mind that much, but losing the Seduce gives you a clear advantage. One trick is to actually allow the mage to get his DoTs on you, polymorph him and focus fire on the Succubus. Or, given the fact that Seduce is a low range charm spell, try snaring her to the ground while you fight the lock. Remember that Seduce, like Fears are subject to diminishing returns so it's the first ones that are your worst enemies (so use your PVP trinket on the first two).
Voidwalker - In the offchance that the warlock is starting with the Voidwalker, he's probably a deep Demonology specced lock with Fel Domination (fast and mana efficient pet summon talent on a cooldown) and Master Summoner (acts like a passive Fel Domination and can be used in conjunction with it for an even faster pet summon). He'll use the Voidwalker as a sacrifice tool to get his shield on, then he'll pop Fel Domination and try to get another pet up. When you see him Sacrificing the Voidwalker, immediately Polymorph the warlock. The shield lasts for 30 seconds so you can either wait for it to go off (re-sheeping if needed) or get some damage on him. The shield will absorb the damage, but it won't break the shield, unless your damage output exceeds the amount absorbed by the shield. Then make sure you immediately cast Counterspell so you don't allow him to get a new pet out, or use Dragon's Breath, Blast Wave or anything that can stop him from casting. If you've gone so far, you've already won.
Felhunter - I found PVPing against a Felhunter lock harder than against one that had his succubus out. That annoying spell lock can be a deadly weapon in the hands of a skilled warlock and with the right talents, the warlock will also get 60 resistances to all schools of damage while his felhunter is out. Nuking the felhunter is almost impossible, since you can't use the same technique as with the succubus, snaring the pet and polymorphing the warlock (the felhunter will dispel the polymorph off the warlock). You will have a harder time against a felhunter lock as a fire or arcane mage, since it will be a long fight and these trees are not too mana efficient. Frost mages do stand a chance, since they can keep the felhunter snared/slowed for some time and focus on the warlock.
Felguard - Frost mages are better against Felguard warlocks, because this pet is useless when kept out of melee range. Control him with Nova, Ice Armor or chill effects and always blink out of his range. If he manages to start hitting you, you won't be able to cast anything. You can also sheep him and focus on the warlock.
All in all, Frost mages are better suited for fighting Warlocks, since they can easily take out their pet from combat and have Frozen Core which makes it harder for the lock to hit you with one of his main spell schools, Fire, whereas they have no resistance talents against your Frost tree (except for the Felhunter bonus resistance they get from the Master Demonology talent, but that is a general spell resistance talent).
Mage - Fighting another mage is really all about spec and gear. Two same-specced, equally geared mages will be dependant on luck to win, since a single resisted counterspell, or damage spell can mean your death.
If you have Improved Counterspell, cast it on him as soon as the fight starts, so you can get the first Sheep in. Usually whoever gets the first sheep + nuke in wins the match. when he's low on HP, I suggest you use fire spells only, even if you're specced frost or arcane since you'll want to have a DoT on him if he intends to Polymorph you and evocate/bandage.
If you get polymorph and the other mage starts charging his big nuke, keep Counterspell ready and use it on him as soon as his first spell lands. Hopefully you'll stop him from casting the instant damage spell that follows a nuke and now you can polymorph him back and return the favor.
Keep up fire ward at all times, even if it's clear that you're fighting a Frost mage for example. Every mage, regardless of spec will use Fire Blast as an instant filler between other damage spells, so it's a good idea to have Fire Ward on at all times.
Arcane Power/Presence of Mind mages have a substantial advantage over Fire and Frost ones, if they can get the following tactic right: as soon as the fight starts, counterspell the other mage and polymorph him. Move in closer, use Arcane Power and start a Pyroblast. When it hits, immediately proc Presence of Mind and get another Pyroblast in, then do an instant Fireblast and Cone of Cold. If you have Cold Snap in Frost, use it to get another Cone of Cold in, or if you have Blast Wave from Fire pop it to daze the mage and finish him off. Of course, this entire tactic is reliant on the sheep not breaking before you get the first Pyroblast in, so if he uses his PVP trinket you might be in trouble. He might also counterspell you right after your first Pyroblast, which messes up your spell order and might ruin the tactic. If you specced for Slow, you can also use it while the other mage is sheeped, to reduce his casting time and render him unable to sheep you back once he's free.
Rogue - Having Ice armor on before the fight increases your chances of surviving the initial stunlock safely. While stunlocked, mash the Frost Nova button and as soon as you see the rogue trapped in it, move away (don't blink, you'll need its cooldown intact in a bit). Move as further away possible and Polymorph him. Bandage up and cast your big nuke, hopefully you have Pyroblast because you'll need to keep a fire DoT on him in order to stop him from vanishing.
In addition, if he does manage to vanish quickly run to the place he was in before and use a low rank Arcane Explosion to get him out of stealth. Rogues in stealth move slowly, so if you're quick enough you can use this tactic efficiently. If he does escape, try to guess where he's heading and use rank 1 Blizzard or rank 1 Arcane Explosion to discover him.
If they manage to get close to you and get a kidney shot or a cheap shot in, use your blink now to get away from him and polymorph again if the fire DoT has worn off, or nuke otherwise and hope for the best.
Frost mages can use the same tactics, combined with kiting ones. Keep him slowed while moving away with strafe between spells, use Cold Snap when you need an extra Frost Nova or Cone of Cold and Ice Block to get out of the stuns. Blink away when he gets close again and use frostbolts to keep him at a distance, or the Water Elemental's freeze. You won't be able to use the fire DoT to keep him from Vanishing (since the DoT will remove your Nova or Water Elemental Freeze) so if he does, quickly use a rank 1 Blizzard on the same spot to get him out again.
Another great tactic that Presence of Mind arcane mages can use against rogues is to quickly blink out after the initial stun, then use Presence of Mind for an instant Polymorph. If you manage to get a sheep on the rogue so early on, you can bandage yourself up to full health (allow any poisons to wear off first) and start off a nuke. If you manage to get this right, it should be an easy fight from hereon.
Druid - Your main reasons of concern when fighting a druid are his cat form damage output and his moonfire spam. A druid whose sole purpose is to moonfire spam you may get the upper hand on you unless you scorch/arcane missile him down faster and use a counterspell at the right moment.
Feral druids are tougher though, especially cat-forms. It will be harder to keep them snared, since they can shift out of movement impairing effects, so you'll have to blink, daze and Polymorph whenever you have the chance. Whenever a druid gets too low on health, he'll switch to human mode and try to heal himself. It's a must to keep your counterspell ready for these moments, so you can interupt his heal and nuke him to oblivion. If your counterspell is on a cooldown, use Blast Wave or Dragon's Breath to daze him for enough time to allow you the finishing move.
Hunter - It's important to stay in the hunter's "deadzone" at all times. The deadzone is around 5-6 yards and is the exact range in which he can't shoot his bow/gun at you because you're too close but he can't melee you either because you're too far away. Admittedly, this needs a lot of getting used to so practice with a hunter friend in some duels if you want to stand a chance in real combat. Move in close to him, Frost Nova, then move in the deadzone again. If the combat was static (a duel for example) he'll probably have a frost trap down so moving in can get you trapped. You can avoid it by blinking behind the hunter, use Frost Nova and move in the opposite deadzone to the one you came from.
If you're frost, you can Nova and slow down the pet as well or simply Polymorph him so he doesn't daze you or bug you when casting. If you have Slow, put it on him asap since it's a major nuisance to any hunter (he can't move away to use his bow fast enough and even if he does, his ranged attacks are 50% slower).
Ice Block is a great talent to have against hunters, as it can counter Scatter Shots, Freezing Traps, Bestial Wrath pet stun and so forth. Blink also needs to be used perfectly, either to avoid the trap and get behind the hunter (as explained above) or to get out of concussive shot. One last trick involves the combination of these two spells to get you out of a tight situation, namely getting trapped. If you walk into a hunter's trap, use Ice Block immediately. There's a good chance he won't notice that you're not trapped, but Ice Blocked and he will move away and try to range you with Aimed Shot, getting confusing Immune messages. If this happens, use blink to get into his deadzone and resume the tactics explained above.
Shaman - You'll need to work hard in using the shaman's weakness against him in order to win. First of all, shamans have a smaller mana pool and mana expensive spells, but he gets a boost in mana regeneration from his mana spring totem. Make sure it never stays up for more than a tick.
One of the most powerful spell types in a shaman's arsenal are the shocks. However, they have shorter range than your spells, so keeping him at a distance is crucial. Arcane mages can rely on Slow for this, while Frost mages can use Nova and chilling effects. Some shamans will then try to use their long-range spells against you, namely lighting bolt (3 second cast, mana inefficient) and despite the fact that it might hurt a bit, it will also deplete the shaman's mana quickly.
Polymorph comes in as one of your most important spells against Shamans, because they can't get out of it (their PVP trinket gets them out of stuns, but not polymorph effects). If you get a shaman polymorphed before he can get to you and earth shock, you started off with the right foot and have a very good chance at this fight. Just go to max range now and charge up your biggest nuke. Once the shaman is out of the sheep, use fast cast spells instead of another nuke, because he'll just earth shock you now and you want to lose as little casting time as possible.
But the winning spell against a shaman is your counterspell. However, it requires a much more focused cast than with other classes. You will want to close his nature spell tree, since if you do this you leave him defenseless: he won't be able to heal himself, put Grounding totem up, use Earth shock, etc. Basically all his vital spells are in Nature and if you get that one closed and get an instant nuke going you've won. If you have Blast Wave or Dragon's Breath, you can use it to daze him right before the counterspell wears off, in order to give you some more time to finish him.
Paladin - Palas are not an easy class for mages, since they can work around most of your snare effects, they have the Divine Shield and Lay on Hands abilities that virtually gives them two, three "lives" and of course, they can heal right through any damage you make. Frost mages become less effective, since the Paladin can simply Cleanse through the slow/snare abilities, or use Blessing of Freedom. Since you can't consistently "kite" a paladin with your usual snares, you may want to outrun him. Blazing Speed is a useful talent against Paladins, although it's not really reliable enough to form a strategy around it.
Despite all these, the trick in defeating a paladin is to keep him far away from you so that he can't use his melee power against you. Even if they can dispel your Frost Nova, use it to give yourself a few seconds to move further and cast a damage spell. Blink away whenever possible, or keep it ready to escape his Hammer of Justice stun.
Since you'll want to make him use Lay on Hands and Divine Shield as soon as possible, you can use an initial Counterspell on the Paladin early on and use your instant spells to get his health down as fast as possible. Counterspell is extremely effective against Paladins, since they only have one usable spell tree, Holy, so if you close that one you render him useless. One thing worth mentioning is that you should always check if he cast a Divine Shield or a Blessing of Protection. Divine Shield, his "bubble" renders him immune to all damage, whereas Blessing of Protection makes him immune to melee only and he may just use it to trick you into not casting any damage spells while he catches a breath and heals.
Polymorph is a great spell to start with in order to make the Pala use his Divine Shield (the shield breaks the sheep). If you can make him use the Divine Shield early in the battle, you're more than half-way through winning it.
Warrior - If you manage to keep the warrior at a distance, you'll have an easy fight regardless of his spec. However, warriors have a few abilities that won't allow you to kite and snare them so easily, namely Hamstring (reduced running speed snare), Charge (out of combat) and Intercept (an in-combat charge). They also have Piercing Howl and Intimidating Shout to use against you if they get close enough. You can blink out of the charge/intercept stuns, and use your PVP trinket or Ice Block if you're a frost mage to counter the Intimidating Shout and Piercing Howl. The hamstring is a bit tricky and you'll have to respond with a snare of your own when you're hamstring (unless of course if you're a gnome mage, since they have the Escape Artist ability that clears the hamstring).
Just as you start the battle, assuming you're at maximum range, use counterspell on him. This will get the warrior in combat and he won't be able to use his charge, missing out on some crucial rage. Counterspell has a longer range than a warrior's charge, that's why you need to be at maximum range.
You'll also want to polymorph a warrior as quickly as possible, making him use his PVP trinket. If he doesn't use it, get max range and start applying snares (you can Pyroblast and then Frostbolt if you think you have enough time, or simply do 2 Frostbolts). Frost Nova has a slightly larger range than the warrior's hamstring, so you can go in, Nova and quickly move out to avoid his snare. Another good trick is to Nova and instantly blink out of danger. If they don't use their PVP trinkets to get out of the polymorph, just get a good distance and repeat the semi-kiting process. Cold Snap is a good talent here, allowing you to get another Nova in fast and Presence of Mind + Pyroblast can be a great finisher move.