Arcane Mage DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoW MoP 5.4)

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Arcane Mage Art Image
General Information

On this page, we list your Arcane Mage core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft MoP 5.4. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing an Arcane Mage.

The other pages of our Arcane Mage guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Blatty, one of the best Mages in the world, who raids in Method, the currently ranked #1 guild on WoWProgress. He has been contributing a lot to the community through his streams on Twitch and now works for Millenium, his new streaming platform.

1. Single Target Rotation↑top

The rotation of an Arcane Mage consists in the following priority list.

  1. Apply Living Bomb Icon Living Bomb or Nether Tempest Icon Nether Tempest.
    • When you have a large damage-increasing proc (trinkets, weapon enchants, etc.), you can refresh your bomb a few seconds before it expires, otherwise refresh it after it explodes.
  2. Cast Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles when you have 4 (and only 4!) stacks of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge.
  3. Cast Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage when all the following conditions are met:
  4. Cast Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast.

When moving, you need to first place a Rune of Power Icon Rune of Power at your destination (it requires a bit of planning ahead), and Ice Floes Icon Ice Floes can greatly help for that. When the next Rune of Power is in place, you can use Ice Floes Icon Ice Floes again to cast Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast or Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles (do not cast Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage unless you meet the single-target rotation criteria that we listed above). If you have to move for a long distance and that your stacks of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge are about to drop, you can use Arcane Explosion Icon Arcane Explosion to refresh them, if there is a target in range.

Refreshing your Tier 5 talent (also called your bomb) is a tricky business as an Arcane Mage because these spells benefit from your Mastery: Mana Adept Icon Mastery: Mana Adept, meaning that properly using your bomb can greatly increase your DPS. For more details about optimising your bomb usage, please refer to our dedicated section.

See our Opening Sequence for instructions on what to cast when the fight starts.

1.1. Rune of Power

Rune of Power Icon Rune of Power is your only viable Tier 6 talent choice. Always recast it before it fades. Before the fight starts, think of where you would go if you had to move, and place a second rune there. Always use Ice Floes Icon Ice Floes when you need to move to a new location and place a Rune of Power Icon Rune of Power there (and make that location close to your current rune, in case you need to move back shortly after).

We discuss how your other choices of talents affect your play style further down the page.

1.2. Cooldown Usage

1.2.1. Arcane Power and Alter Time

Since we recommend that you use Glyph of Arcane Power Icon Glyph of Arcane Power, you should always use Arcane Power Icon Arcane Power together with Alter Time Icon Alter Time. Since using Arcane Power and Alter Time properly is quite complex, we dedicated a whole section to the matter, later on in the page. We strongly advise you to read it.

1.2.2. Mirror Image

Mirror Image Icon Mirror Image is a very small DPS cooldown, which you should use when the images can attack the boss for their entire duration (30 seconds).

Alternatively, you can use this spell to avoid getting aggro during very heavy AoE damage situations.

2. Multiple Target Rotation↑top

Situation Rotation
Heavy AoE damage on low-health enemies Cast glyphed Cone of Cold Icon Cone of Cold on cooldown and spam Arcane Explosion Icon Arcane Explosion.
Heavy AoE damage on high-health enemies Spam Arcane Explosion Icon Arcane Explosion to build up Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charges and cast Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage at 4 charges. Keep Nether Tempest Icon Nether Tempest up on as many enemies as possible, but only use it on enemies that will stay alive until it expires.
Any other situation Use your single-target rotation on one of the enemies and keep Nether Tempest Icon Nether Tempest up on as many of them as possible. As above, do not use Nether Tempest on enemies that will not live long enough.

3. Armors↑top

Your best choice of armor is generally Mage Armor Icon Mage Armor. However, on pure single-target encounters, like Iron Juggernaut, you should use Frost Armor Icon Frost Armor instead.

4. Optional Read: Mastering Your Arcane Mage↑top

While the rotations we gave in the previous sections will yield very good results, there are many things you should be aware of, in order to play your Arcane Mage to its full potential. In particular, you will need to become a master at managing your mana.

4.1. Arcane Charge System

Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge is a system of charges that increases the damage and mana cost of some of your spells.

Arcane Charge is basically a self-debuff that lasts for 10 seconds and stacks up to 4 times. Stacks are granted and consumed by the following spells:

Spells are modified by Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge in the following ways:

  • Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast's damage is increased by 50% per charge and its mana cost by 150% per charge;
  • Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles always costs no mana and its damage is increased by 50% per charge;
  • Arcane Explosion Icon Arcane Explosion's damage and mana cost are not affected by the charges;
  • Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage deals 50% more damage per charge and hits 1 additional target per charge, for 50% damage;
  • Evocation Icon Evocation's mana regeneration is increased by 25% per charge.

4.2. Mastery, Mana Costs, and Mana Regeneration

Understanding what your Mastery does, how much your spells cost and how your mana regeneration works is an important part of playing an Arcane Mage.

4.2.1. Mastery: Mana Adept

Mastery: Mana Adept Icon Mastery: Mana Adept is a unique proficiency that you gain by choosing the Arcane talent tree. It increases the damage you deal with Arcane spells according to the percentage of mana you currently have. Initially, you start with a 16% increase, and you increase that value by increasing your Mastery Rating.

For example, the tooltip of your Mastery Rating can say:

  • Increases all spell damage done by up to 20%, based on the amount of mana the Mage has unspent.

In this case, for a spell that would otherwise deal 10,000 damage, you will deal:

  • at 10% mana, 10,200 damage, which corresponds to the normal damage value increased by 2% (10% of the 20% increase from Mana Adept).
  • at 25% mana, 10,500 damage, which corresponds to the normal damage value increased by 5% (25% of the 20% increase from Mana Adept).
  • at 50% mana, 11,000 damage, which corresponds to the normal damage value increased by 10% (50% of the 20% increase from Mana Adept).
  • at 75% mana, 11,500 damage, which corresponds to the normal damage value increased by 15% (75% of the 20% increase from Mana Adept).
  • at 100% mana, 12,000 damage, which corresponds to the normal damage value increased by 20% (100% of the 20% increase from Mana Adept).

As you can see, the penalty for casting spells at low mana is not that extraordinary, especially if you compare it to the increased damage (+200%) that Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast does when you have 4 stacks of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge.

4.2.2. Mana Costs and Regeneration

Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast, the spell that you will use the most, has a fixed cost: 5,000 mana for every Mage at level 90. At 4 stacks of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge, the mana cost of this ability increases to 35,000 mana, which means that you need to be careful with the number of stacks you allow yourself to build.

Your mana regeneration does not increase with your gear. Technically it does increase with your spell haste, but this does not compensate the fact that casting faster causes your mana to be consumed faster. Also, mana regeneration is not tied to your maximum amount of mana (as it used to be), which will now remain fixed at 300,000 (regardless of gear).

In Mists of Pandaria, your mana regeneration is fixed at 15,000 mana every 5 seconds (30,000 is you stand in your Rune of Power Icon Rune of Power). This is increased by your haste. For example, if you have 10% haste, you regenerate 10% more mana.

The conclusion to all these facts is that gear will no longer influence the way you play as an Arcane Mage.

4.3. Arcane Missiles

Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles has two charges, so if it procs and you do not use it, it can proc again and you will be able to use it twice in a row. This is important to take into account because it means that you are not forced to cast Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles as soon as it procs.

Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles' damage is increased by your number of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charges (+25% per stack). This means that, while you are building up charges with Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast, you should delay casting Arcane Missiles for as long as possible, so that it benefits from the increased damage provided by the charges. Currently, the best strategy is to build up 4 Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charges before spending your charges of Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles.

4.4. Proper Usage of Tier 5 Talents (DPS Optimisation)

As an Arcane Mage, your Tier 5 talents (or bombs) are tremendously more powerful than in Fire or Frost specialisation, because their damage scales with your Mastery: Mana Adept Icon Mastery: Mana Adept. This means that your bomb is sometimes your main source of damage in raid encounters.

As a result, you have to pay close attention to refreshing your bombs at the right time. Track buffs that increase your Intellect or your damage done and make sure to refresh your bomb accordingly, as explained below.

  • Always refresh your bomb before a buff fades. For example, refresh your bomb with Primal Nutriment Icon Primal Nutriment on Ji-Kun or when leaving a pool on Jin'rokh.
  • Clip your bomb right away (i.e., refresh it even if it still has a lot of time left on it) if you have important procs or buffs (trinket procs, boss mechanics, Arcane Power Icon Arcane Power, etc.). The idea is that your bombs will snapshot your stats at the moment you cast them and they will deal increased damage for their whole duration (even after your buffs have run out).
  • When you are not under the effect of a buff or a damage-increasing boss mechanics, simply refresh your bomb before it runs out.

4.5. Arcane Power and Alter Time

Alter Time Icon Alter Time is the ultimate Arcane Mage DPS Cooldown. 6 seconds after using this spell, your buffs are reset to the duration and value they had when you cast Alter Time, effectively adding 6 seconds to any buff you had at the time of the cast. Using Alter Time requires a bit of preparation and, since it has the same 3-minute duration cooldown as Arcane Power Icon Arcane Power (when using Glyph of Arcane Power Icon Glyph of Arcane Power), you should always use these 2 spells together and cast Arcane Power right before Alter Time (see our macro).

Using Alter Time Icon Alter Time on the pull is a bit different than using it later on in the fight, so we will consider these two situations.

4.5.1. Alter Time on the pull

When using Alter Time Icon Alter Time at the beginning of a fight, you need to first cast Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast to build up 4 stacks of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge and to proc your trinkets. Then you must quickly use Alter Time, preferably before the durations of your trinkets' effects drop below 6 seconds (for maximum DPS). If you have a trinket that has an effect with a build-up time (Black Blood of Y'Shaarj Icon Black Blood of Y'Shaarj), then you usually want to wait until there is exactly 6 seconds left on the effect.

While RPPM trinkets will proc in the first few seconds of a fight, trinkets with an internal-cooldown (ICD) effect may not. When an ICD trinket does not proc, you need to do what is best for your DPS. For example, most Arcane Mages use Kardris' Toxic Totem Icon Kardris' Toxic Totem (RPPM) and Purified Bindings of Immerseus Icon Purified Bindings of Immerseus (ICD). Often, Kardris' Toxic Totem will proc before Purified Bindings of Immerseus and, in this case, one should delay using Alter Time Icon Alter Time until Purified Bindings of Immerseus procs, because the effect is better (same stats, but the effect from Purified Bindings of Immerseus lasts longer, which means that it is best to have this effect up at the same time as Arcane Power Icon Arcane Power). So, when both trinkets will not proc at the same time, use Alter Time in conjunction with the best trinket effect.

To delay Alter Time Icon Alter Time and fish for trinket procs, do not spam Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast, as this would just waste your mana. Instead, start with Fire Blast Icon Fire Blast. If that does not work, use Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles (if you have charges). If that still does not work, use Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage.

If you manage to trigger the awaited trinket proc with Fire Blast or Arcane Missiles, things are usually easy and you can use your Alter Time macro right away. That said, if this trinket effect has a build-up period, like that of Black Blood of Y'Shaarj Icon Black Blood of Y'Shaarj, you need to wait until the last moment before casting Alter Time. This happens when the trinket effect has 6 seconds remaining and this will give you the best DPS increase.

If you trigger it with Arcane Barrage, things are a bit more complicated:

  • if the proc from your other trinket is still up, use your Alter Time macro immediately;
  • otherwise, you can safely rebuild your stacks of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge before using Alter Time.

4.5.2. Alter Time later on in the fight

For subsequent casts of Alter Time Icon Alter Time, the only rule is to have 4 stacks of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charges. Having charges of Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles is optional for Alter Time, meaning that you should never delay Alter Time because you do not have charges of Arcane Missiles. That said, having charges of Arcane Missiles is a good thing, so you should try to make it so that you already have charges when Alter Time comes off cooldown, by starting to save charges ahead of time (10 to 15 seconds).

Sometimes, it may be preferable to not use Alter Time on cooldown, but to delay it until a period of increased damage on the boss or until a period where heavy AoE damage or heavy burst damage is required. You may also want to gamble and delay casting Alter Time in order to wait for a RPPM trinket proc if this is your last Alter Time cast of the fight (i.e., if the fight has less than 3 minutes remaining).

You should also know that ICD trinkets have relatively predictable proc times. For example, if you use Alter Time on cooldown, then the third time you will use it will usually coincide with your fourth proc of Purified Bindings of Immerseus Icon Purified Bindings of Immerseus. So, if you have this trinket, you should definitely wait for it to proc before casting your third Alter Time of the fight.

4.5.3. During Alter Time

During Alter Time Icon Alter Time, the priority is to consume your charges of Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles. When you have no charge of Arcane Missiles, simply spam Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast. Mana consumption does not matter during Alter Time, because your mana will be reset to its previous level when Alter Time expires.

Right before Alter Time expires, make sure to cast a 4-charge Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage. This will reset your charges, but it does not matter since your Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charges will be restored Alter Time expires.

4.5.4. After Alter Time

After Alter Time Icon Alter Time fades, your buffs will be reset to what they previously were, meaning that you will still enjoy a full duration of Arcane Power Icon Arcane Power. While Arcane Power is up, your rotation does not change much. Since spells cost 10% more during Arcane Power, you need to adapt your rotation to not overuse your mana. What we advise you to do is to simply cast Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage more often to reset your Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charges.

4.6. Opening Sequence

We advise you to use the following opening sequence (or opener).

5. Changelog↑top

  • 04 Feb. 2014: Updated single-target, cooldown, armor, and opening rotation sections on Blatty's advice.
  • 10 Sep. 2013: Patch 5.4: nothing to change.
  • 01 Jul. 2013: Added Rune of Power Icon Rune of Power to the opening sequence.
  • 18 Jun. 2013: Update from Blatty. Improved Arcane Power Icon Arcane Power advice. Added section to optimise bomb usage and deal increased damage.
  • 15 Jun. 2013: Update from Blatty. Added advice for doing damage while moving. Re-added Cone of Cold Icon Cone of Cold in the multiple-target rotation. Improved advice for Alter Time Icon Alter Time.
  • 07 Jun. 2013: Updated multiple-target section after 2 weeks of Patch 5.3 raiding.
  • 25 May 2013: Mage Armor Icon Mage Armor is once again the armor of choice for Arcane Mages. Living Bomb Icon Living Bomb is now the best option for single-target situations. Multiple-target rotation still needs to be updated, but another lockout of testing is needed.
  • 20 May 2013: Patch 5.3 update: nothing changed (may need to review AoE rotation after a few days of raiding).
  • 19 May 2013: Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles should now be cast only at 4 Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charges (thanks to Blatty for the optimisation).
  • 17 Apr. 2013: Update after Blatty's review of the guide.
    • Slight improvements to the single-target rotation.
    • Improved AoE rotation.
    • Added opening sequence.
    • Emphasised the importance of Blazing Speed Icon Blazing Speed over the other two Tier 1 talents in the talents cooldown section.
  • 29 Mar. 2013: Frost Armor Icon Frost Armor is now the advised armor for Arcane Mages (was Mage Armor Icon Mage Armor previously).
  • 13 Mar. 2013: Removed last mentions of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge having 6 stacks.
  • 07 Mar. 2013: Patch 5.2 update.
    • Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge now only stacks up to 4.
    • Scorch Icon Scorch is no longer available to Arcane Mage. The rotation was updated to reflect that.
    • Evocation Icon Evocation now consumes all your Arcane Charges and returns 25% more mana per Arcane Charge consumed.