World of Warcraft Mage Raiding Guide
The life of a raiding mage is often considered "easy mode" since they "only need to mash one button". This is obviously a general belief constructed around mages from the point of view of other classes.
In fact, mages have a lot of jobs to do in raids and they'll most likely have their hands full at all times. Buffing, making water and food, knowing when to use Dampen/Amplify magic, DPSing hard while not over-aggroing are all part of a mage's life in PVE. If you can do this with only one button, be my guest...
Of course, if you slack, the Frostbolt or Fireball button may be enough, with an occasional Arcane Intellect buff to some whisper-whiner. But then again I'm here to talk about the real raiding mages, the ones that want to do their job best and help the raid and their guild progress through end-game. And your job in a raid, regardless of your spec includes:
• Support for the other players (buffs, food, water)
• Heavy DPS
• Crowd Controlling
The following guide will let you in on some build-specific tips and tricks as well as some general ones in the end section. You can also find a list of some of the most useful raid consumables, since if you want to be a good PVE mage and help your raid out, you will need to use them to max out your DPS output. Let's start with each spec's role in end-game PVE:
Mage Raiding Guide - Fire Mages
Going deep in the fire tree has its advantages and disadvantages when in an end-game raid. You'll probably want all of the fire talents, except Impact (no need for the stun chance and doesn't work on bosses), Improved Fire Blast (1.5 seconds on this spell's cooldown may not be worth trading 3 talent points) Improved Flamestrike (not really a used spell), Improved Fire Ward (PVP talent) and Blazing Speed (PVP Talent - if you get hit in a raid...the only place you'll be running faster is from the Spirit Healer to the Raid Instance entrance :). Getting Arcane Subtlety and Arcane Concentration in the Arcane Tree and Elemental Precision in Frost makes for a great 10/48/3 Fire build that emphasizes on single-target burst damage with a heightened spell penetration. I've added this spec to our Mage Talent Guide, if you care to take a look.
Your raid leader will ask of you one thing and one thing only: focused-target DPS. This means that you'll just have to spam-DPS the main assist target, or the boss, while making sure you don't pull aggro. As a deep fire mage, your DPS will rival that of any hunter, warlock, rogue or shadow priest, but unfortunately you can only stay high on the DPS meter if you have mana and this build is not the most mana efficient since it requires spamming, so make good use of Mana pots and other consumables.
The spells of choice are Scorch, Fireball and Fire Blast. The attack pattern is as follows:
Scorch -> Scorch -> Scorch -> Scorch -> Scorch -> Fire Blast -> Fireball -> Fireball -> ... (Fireball until the Scorch debuff is wearing off - you can get around 5-6 Fireballs in) -> Scorch etc
The reason we use this pattern is because we want to get the Scorch debuff stacking 5 times on the target (5 x Scorches with the Improved Scorch talent), then make the most of it using Fireball and Fireblast. When the debuff is close to wearing off, repeat the entire process. Note that you could also get a Blast Wave or Dragon's Breath in between the Scorch Cycle, but not a lot of PVE raid boss encounters allow you to stay that close to a boss and live.
Make sure you also have full points in Arcane Concentration, since this kind of fast damage spell spamming on a boss makes Clearcasting proc quite often. And with the above mentioned mana inefficiency of the build, a free Fireball every now and then can keep you in the run on the DPS meter.
Mage Raiding Guide - Frost Mages
A deep frost PVE mage will be a lot more versatile than a fire or arcane one, but he will not be able to keep up in DPS, at least not with the deep fire one. Your main job will be crowd controlling and DPS-ing additional targets, but against single-targets you won't do as well. If you take Shatter and base your build around high DPS and crits against frozen targets, you should know that most bosses are immune to Freezing effects, so you'll be losing some of your ordinary DPS there. However, if the boss has adds, you'll be equally useful to the raid as you will utilize your build to its fullest.
There are few talents not worth taking in the Frost tree, including: Frost Warding (mostly a PVP talent), Permafrost (you don't need the extra slowing effect in a raid and sometimes it's even worse having one mob lag up behind the others), Improved Blizzard (again, no need for additional snaring in raid PVE on most occasions) and Frozen Core (mostly a PVP talent, or very very VERY situational in PVE). You can check out some nice Frost mage raiding builds in our Mage Talent Guide .
One of the two main benefits of this Frost PVE build is high survivability and mana efficiency, especially if you combine it with the Arcane Subtlety and Arcane Concentration talents. This actually makes it better on longer fights than a deep fire spec, since by the time a fire mage will be out of mana, the Frost mage will still be pounding his lower, but steadier DPS. Your main attack will include Frostbolt, Ice Lance and the DPS you get from your Water Elemental. Just spam Frostbolts intertwined with Ice Lances and whenever the Water Elemental cooldown is ready, pop it for that extra DPS. You can also get some Fire Blasts in, when the cooldown is ready, since they're instant. It might sound like a no brainer, but getting the most out of it in a raid situation is harder than it looks.
All in all, the PVE Frost mage will do slightly lower on the DPS benchmark than his Fire specced brother, but then again you'll have a better survival rate with Ice Block and Ice Barrier. And a living lower-DPS Frost mage will beat a dead high-DPS Fire mage anytime of the day :).
Mage Raiding Guide - Arcane Mages
All PVE Arcane builds will take you 40 points in the Arcane tree, with the other 21 in Fire or Frost. The 41 talent in Arcane, Slow, is an excellent PVP spell, but unfortunately it's very situational in raids and generally not worth taking. However, this allows you to take the 21 talent in either Frost or Fire, with the Frost 21 Ice Block rendering you higher survivability and the Fire 21 Blast Wave giving you a burst DPS and short crowd controlling option.
But regardless what you choose for your secondary tree, your main focuses are Mind Mastery, Arcane Mind, Spell Power, Presence of Mind and Arcane Power. You should skip the Improved and Empowered Arcane Missiles talents, because you'll be relying mostly on your secondary tree damage spells (Fireball or Frostbolt) since Arcane Missiles are way too much of a mana dump to be effective in raid situations. Besides these two talents, a few others worth avoiding include Arcane Fortitude (you won't get hit, so no need for armor, although if you really don't have anywhere else to put one point you can use it here), Improved Mana Shield (PVP talent and won't save you if you get hit - besides you don't want to lose mana at all in raids, so mana shield is almost worthless), Improved Blink (I can't see why you would need a cheaper blink so badly as to spend 2 points in this talent), Prismatic Cloak (if you get hit by a raid instance mob or boss, no 4% damage reduction will save your cloth-wearing behind) and Slow (PVP talent). You can check out some Arcane based PVE builds in our Mage Talent Guide section.
I'd personally go for the 40 Arcane/21 Fire spec, since you can get a better nuke out of Presence of Mind/Pyroblast than you could from a frost spell. Your main damage pattern would then become:
Scorch x 5, Fire Blast, Fireball, Fireball, Presence of Mind/Pyro, Scorch, Scorch etc
The combined critical chance and critical damage bonuses from Ignite, Arcane Instability, Arcane Potency, Spell Power, Arcane Mind and Mind Mastery mean that your Scorches will do higher damage than in a normal Fire build (a bit weird, I know) and your Ignite Fire damage bonus also procs a lot more often, rendering those Scorches 40% more useful.
This raiding spec allows some nice mana regeneration and conservation with talents such as Arcane Concentration, Arcane Mind, Arcane Meditation and Arcane Subtlety (less resists, more mana) but it also has some talents that burn through your mana pool like a motha. Arcane Power and Presence of Mind can both make you lose mana fast.
One last note regarding the Arcane raiding PVE mage, is the Arcane talent Wand Specialization (2 talent points, increases damage with wands by 25%). Most people just laugh it off and say "lulz wands have crap DPS newayz n00b". Indeed they do, but this talent is not meant to increase your wand DPS, but rather to help you out with your mana pool and since Arcane or Fire mages are very mana hungry, this can be helpful. On most boss fights that are long enough that you remain out of mana, a Paladin will be assigned with placing Judgment of Wisdom on the target, allowing anyone that hits it to regenerate mana according to their damage. Since you'll be using Judgment of Wisdom for regeneration with your wand instead of your melee, the 25% more DPS from your wand will offer you a higher mana draining from the Judgment. It also helps with grinding outside the raid instance, where you'll find yourself wanding after a mana-intensive AoE session, or when an extra mob ganks you.
Mage Raiding Guide - Raid Consumables
There are four types of buffs a mage can get from consumables before and during a raid and those are the "Well Fed" buff from food, a Guardian Elixir with passive effects stat increasing or defensive effects, a Battle Elixir with offensive stats and spell effects and last but not least, a Weapon Oil you can apply on your dagger, sword or staff, in order to get a boost in either mana regeneration or spell damage. Note that a flask lasts longer and persists through death and counts as both a Guardian and Battle Elixir. Here's a list of some of the most useful raid consumables for mages:
• [Super Mana Potion]
• [Destruction Potion]
• [Brilliant Wizard Oil]
• [Superior Wizard Oil]
• [Superior Mana Oil]
• [Elixir of Draenic Wisdom]
• [Elixir of Major Mageblood]
• [Elixir of Major Frost Power]
• [Elixir of Major Firepower]
• [Adept's Elixir]
• [Crunchy Serpent]
• [Poached Bluefish]
• [Blackened Basilisk]
• [Blackened Sporefish]
• [Chipped Power Core]
• [Unstable Flask of the Sorcerer]
• [Flask of Mighty Restoration]
• [Flask of Distilled Wisdom]
• [Flask of Supreme Power]
Mage Raiding Guide - General Tips and Tricks
• Cold Snap can be used to reset the cooldown of your Water Elemental.
• Sometimes you might want to take Mana/5 seconds consumables over +spell damage or +spell crit ones. At longer boss fights, all that +spell damage will be lost if you have no mana to use it in mid fight.
• If you took the Molten Fury talent in the Fire tree, try to save some mana, a pot and your Evocation for when the boss is under 20%, and go all out so you can benefit from the talent's damage increase.
• Bosses can't be affected by the Freeze effect, but taking Shatter and Frostbite can be good choices if your main job in the raid is to take out adds.
• If you are Arcane, you could go with the Improved/Empowered Arcane Missiles combination as your main damage source, especially if you know you'll be only doing "fast" bosses in the following raids. On bosses that take longer than your mana can hold out, the Missiles won't be effective, since you'll have a reduced overall DPS from not having mana to cast anything at all.
• There's only one boss where Blazing Speed is useful in PVE: The Big Bad Wolf in Karazhan, although even there, it better proc on your first 2 hits, since you might not survive a third.
• Use Amplify Magic on your raid teammates if you're fighting a mainly melee boss. This will allow your healers to get bigger heals if they cast on someone with the Amplify Magic buff on. Make sure the boss doesn't use any heavy spell damage abilities, or the Amplify Magic might boost them enough to 1-shot someone in the raid.
• Arcane Power / Presence of Mind / Pyroblast will do some awesome damage in raids, but it will also cause some heavy threat. Make sure you're safe on the threatmeter before proccing the big nuke.
• Never go to a raid without a lot of empty bagspaces for conjured food/water. Take 3 minutes before the raid, or when you're waiting for late comers, to make conjured water and use an addon to automatically trade water when someone opens up a trade window with you. You can find a few useful addons for this purpose in our Mage Addons Guide.
• Ignite damage is added up and stacked if you get two crits before the first Ignite DoT wears off
• In numbers, 13 hit rating is approximately 1% chance to hit, 22 spell crit is 1% chance to crit
• In numbers, 1 Intellect is 15 mana and approximately 0.28 crit rating
• If you don't take any resist reducing talents such as Elemental Precision or Arcane Subtlety, you will need a +hit rating of aproximately 200 to make sure you hit 99% of times. If you do have those talents, a +hit rating of 150 will suffice.