I sincerely apologize to all the Eve people that might still have me linked or in their RSS feeds. I am about to do the unthinkable and branch this blog out to encompass other games. This post is going to be about the World. Of Warcraft.
This is a list of Mage specs along with information about them (as accurate to patch 3.0.8a). I find that 90% of the mage forums right now is people asking questions about the differences between specializations, how they should arrange their talents, how they should rotate their spells for maximum effect, etc. Hopefully this can give some answers but keep in mind that I am far from an expert. Also keep in mind that this is in relation to single target PvE DPS. If you are looking to do 5-man instances or PvP, the information in this post may be less than useful.
One note before I start: All the information here is a rough suggestion, not a strict guideline. The talent builds are ones I have seen used or used myself but that does not mean that small or even large variations on them isn't perfectly viable or even better than what I have suggested. There are also more glyphs than the ones I link to that can be used for each spec, so look into what exists and decide what you think will fit your playstyle the most. Lastly, the "Preferred Stat(s)" section under each spec should be taken with a grain of salt. All builds will benefit greatly from hit, spell power, crit, haste and even spirit. I am simply pointing out which ones have a greater effect on that particular specialzation and should be sought after when obtaining gear.
Common Talent Builds:
Crit. Frostfire bolt relies very heavily on critical strikes for three reasons:
(1) Frostfire bolt builds generally get about a 300% bonus to critical strike damage due to taking talents from both the Frost and Fire trees that increase crit damage (Burnout, Ice Shards).
(2) Heavy fire builds rely on the free/instant cast Pyroblasts that are generated by Hot Streak for extra DPS (Hot Streak is a proc triggered by two consecutive critical strikes).
(3) Fire builds rely very heavily on Ignite for DPS, a DoT that is only triggered by crits. When I ran with FFB for a few days, Ignite was my 2nd leading cause of damage behind Frostfire Bolt itself.
To start a fight: Scorch, Scorch, Living Bomb. This gets the scorch debuff up to 5 charges (assuming you have the Improved Scorch Glyph equipped) and gets the Living Bomb DoT started.
To maintain DPS: Frostfire Bolt, Frostfire Bolt, Frostfire Bolt. Refresh Living Bomb when it has completed and cast Scorch once the Improved Scorch debuff is close to wearing off (a single cast will refresh all five charges). Whenever Burnout procs due to two straight crits, fire off the free instant-cast Pryoblast as soon as possible. You don't want to wait too long to fire it otherwise you might miss other procs due to additional crits. Don't forget to pop Icy Veins when it is up and it would be smart to trigger any spell power trinkets or items along with it.
Glyph of Molten Armor
Glyph of Improved Scorch
Glyph of Frostfire Bolt
Frostfire bolt is generally considered the highest DPS specialization for mages against single targets right now. It is an easy rotation to manage and is fairly mana effecient. It is doubtful that you will ever run out of mana during any raid fight even if you are going all out thanks to raid buffs. It is however very gear dependant and mages with low crit would be better off waiting until they have some gear to specialize. I would personally recommend at least 30% crit (including glyphs and buffs such as Molten Armor). My biggest reservation with this spec is that it is not very viable outside of raids. It is decent for 5-man instances, poor for solo play out in the world and awful for PvP. It is rare in PvP that people will let you stand around casting on them and if you get counterspelled while casting a Frostfire Bolt, you are locked out of the Frost AND Fire tree.
Common Talent Builds:
Intellect. This is because of two reasons:
(1) Arcane is very mana intensive. It gives the caster a lot of control over their DPS but in direct relation to how quickly they burn through their mana reserves. The more Intellect you have, the larger your mana pool will be and thus the more you can cast before having to evocate (which in turn will regen MORE because it regens a percentage of your mana pool as opposed to a static number).
(2) Mind Mastery is a talent deep in the Arcane tree that gives you a spellpower buff to the tune of 15% of your intellect. In other words, if you have 100 intellect, you will get an extra 15 spell power from the talent. A decently geared level 80 mage will have more like 1000 intellect which is good for 150 spellpower.
Arcane is probably the most intensive rotation of them all. Not because the rotation itself is difficult to pull off but because it can (and should) be changed on the fly to adjust for mana consumption and DPS needs. Arcane Blast, Arcane Barrage and Arcane Missiles will be the bread and butter of the Arcane Mage during single target fights. It is important to read the description of Arcane Blast and understand how it works in order to be most effecient.
Max DPS Rotation: Arcane Blast, Arcane Blast, Arcane Blast, Arcane Blast.... and thats it. Super mana intensive.
Low Mana Intensive Rotation: Arcane Blast, Arcane Barrage, Arcane Blast, Arcane Barrage. Replace a Barrage on a Missile Barrage proc with Arcane Missiles.
Normal Middle of the Road Rotation: Arcane Blast, Arcane Blast, Arcane Blast, Arcane Barrage. If Missile Barrage procs during the Arcane Blasts, the rotation is changed to have an Arcane Missiles before the Barrage like so: Arcane Blast, Arcane Blast, Arcane Blast, Arcane Missiles, Arcane Barrage (Missile Barrage is a proc that causes Arcane Missiles to cast twice as fast thus doubling its DPS).
Glyph of Arcane Blast
Glyph of Mage Armor
Glyph of Arcane Power
The key is to understand that Arcane Blast buffs your damage but does so at the cost of more mana. If you are running out of mana too quickly, you can throttle down to using it only once or twice in the rotation instead of three times. If you are trying to burn through a boss who is low and has enraged, you can throttle up and use it a lot. It is also important to remember to throw in Arcane power as it only has a two minute cooldown with talents and will provide a large boost to damage output while it is up. During longer fights with Arcane you need to figure out how you can do max DPS while making your mana last at least two minutes until you can evocate and pop another mana gem. It is all a balancing act. Having gear with spirit and using Mage Armor can also be beneficial as properly geared Arcane mages can regen quite a bit while casting due to the Glyph of Mage Armor and talents.
Common Talent Builds:
Haste. This is because Frost is so mana efficient. You could probably cast Frostbolts all day and you would never, ever run out of mana while raid buffed (and maybe not even while not raid buffed). Faster casting allows you to increase your DPS without having to worry about running out of mana faster like you might with Fire or Arcane.
Unlike Fire or Arcane, Frost in raids is mostly reactive as opposed to proactive. You pretty much just cast Frostbolts until a proc occurs and then you deal with it appropriately.
Frost Rotation: Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Frostbolt.... Frostbolt. When Fingers of Frost Procs, the rotation for the next three casts becomes: Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Ice Lance. It is very important to remember that the Ice Lance must be cast immediately after the 2nd frostbolt so that it will recieve the bonus from Fingers of Frost. This allows you to get the shatter effect out of three spells as opposed to only two. When Brain Freeze procs, throw off your free Fireball asap so that you can be ready to proc it again as soon as possible.
The DPS gained from Brain Freeze is only a little bit over a rotation without it but it does provide more mana efficiency due to the fact it is free and it also helps the rotation be a little bit less boring. Important to frost as well is keeping your Elemental up as much as possible. He can provide 10-15% of your DPS over a fight and I personally like to blow Icy Veins early on in a fight so that I can Cold Snap it and my elemental back up as soon as he despawns. More Elemental up-time equals more DPS.
Glyph of Frostbolt
Glyph of Water Elemental
Glyph of Molten Armor
Frost right now is the red-headed step child of raiding. It is fantastic for solo'ing, great for PvP, more than adequate in 5-man's but not so hot for raids. It did get a boost from the changes to the Torment of the Weak talent (12% bonus to anything that is snared in any way) but it still falls well below the spec's above due to low damage and poor scaling with gear. If you are looking for something fun and different, you can still be viable for raiding. If you are looking to be optimally effective, this is the one option you will probably want to stay away from.
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