WotLK Classic Arcane Mage Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities

Last updated on Sep 24, 2023 at 02:27 by Wrdlbrmpft 3 comments

On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Arcane Mage in both single-target and multiple-target PvE situations in WotLK Classic. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS.


General Knowledge

If you are not already familiar with all the Arcane Mage spells, or simply want to refresh your memory, you may find interest in the Spell Summary page. Knowing how all your important spells work helps you understand your class better. This will improve your performance, as you will not have to think about these spells any longer, but simply know them and can focus on what happens around you in PvE and PvP situations. Knowing when to press which defensive button can help your and your raid's survival. In PvP situations, you always have to be ready to notice what your enemy is doing, and you become better at that if you know all your abilities by heart.

This guide assumes you are running one of the Arcane Mage PvE builds and that you are playing a Level 80 character.


The Global Cooldown (GCD)

Before you begin, it is very important to know what the global cooldown is. After that you will learn why this is important. Usually, most of your spells trigger the global cooldown (some spells and items, such as Counterspell IconCounterspell and Saronite Bomb Icon Saronite Bomb do not trigger a GCD). This means that for 1.5 seconds no other spell can be cast, in order to prevent you from spamming, say, 20 Arcane Explosion IconArcane Explosions per second by hitting the button 20 times per second. The stat Haste and cooldowns like Icy Veins IconIcy Veins will reduce the global cooldown, up to a minimum of 1 second. However, your spells can still be cast faster than 1 second. For example, a Scorch IconScorch cast can be reduced to 0.8 seconds. But because you have to wait for the GCD with 1 second, you are blocked from doing any type of cast for the remaining 0.2 seconds. In practice this means that whenever you are using cooldowns like Icy Veins IconIcy Veins, Bloodlust IconBloodlust/Heroism IconHeroism, and Berserking IconBerserking at the same time, your passive Haste from gear can make your casts faster than 1 second if you are using Potion of Speed Icon Potion of Speed. Therefore it is useful to have all your cooldown-stacking macros below once with a Potion of Speed Icon Potion of Speed (if not below GCD) and once with Potion of Wild Magic Icon Potion of Wild Magic (if below GCD). The dedicated Mage Fojji from the top guild <Numen> has made a WeakAura that displays your GCD. We strongly recommend you to check his other WeakAuras as well.

Another perk of off-GCD spells and items like Counterspell IconCounterspell and Saronite Bomb Icon Saronite Bomb is that you can macro them into other abilities to not lose cast time. For example:

  • /cast Counterspell
  • /cast [nochanneling: Arcane Missiles] Arcane Blast
  • /cqs


  • /use Global Thermal Sapper Charge
  • /use [@player] Saronite Bomb
  • /cast Arcane Explosion
  • /cqs

The first macro will start an Arcane Blast IconArcane Blast after the Counterspell IconCounterspell, while the second macro will use a Global Thermal Sapper Charge Icon Global Thermal Sapper Charge or throw a Saronite Bomb Icon Saronite Bomb at the player's position (if any of them are off cooldown) and instantly cast an Arcane Explosion IconArcane Explosion after. Both macros will minimize the cast time you lose and maximize your damage output between these actions.




Important DPS-Enhancing Spells

There are a few spells you always need to have active if you want to maximize your performance:

  • Arcane Intellect IconArcane Intellect/Arcane Brilliance IconArcane Brilliance — This boosts your Intellect stat and therefore your Mana pool and Critical Strike chance.
  • Molten Armor IconMolten Armor — Boosts your Critical Strike chance by 35% of your total Spirit (55% with Glyph of Molten Armor Icon Glyph of Molten Armor) and deals damage to enemies that hit you. This is the better choice, unless you face extreme Mana problems all the time.
  • Mage Armor IconMage Armor — Boosts your Magic resistance by 40 and allows 50% of your Mana regeneration (70% with Glyph of Mage Armor Icon Glyph of Mage Armor) to continue while casting. Only use this armor if you really need the Magic resistance or Mana regeneration.
  • Focus Magic IconFocus Magic — Cast on another caster who does a lot of crits to boost theirs and your Critical Strike chance by 3%.

AoE Damage and Threat

When the fight is stationary, which means your targets do not move, Arcane Mages use Blizzard IconBlizzard as their main AoE spell. Weaving in Flamestrike IconFlamestrike (Rank 9) and Flamestrike IconFlamestrike (Rank 8) drastically increases DPS (because the DoTs from both ranks stack), but also requires mobs to stand in the ground effect of Flamestrike. If you know mobs in your next pull stand still, you can also Presence of Mind IconPresence of Mind, into Blizzard IconBlizzard, into Flamestrike IconFlamestrike, into Blizzard IconBlizzard for premium AoE damage. This way the first Blizzard benefits from the Arcane Potency IconArcane Potency talent, while the Flamestrike will be an instant cast.

Mirror Image IconMirror Image can be used on AoE to disappear from the threat list while doing heavy burst AoE damage. Simply use them while engaging the next pack of mobs and enjoy doing no threat until the Mirror Images disappear.

In non-stationary AoE situations, such as when you and the mobs move, cast Arcane Explosion IconArcane Explosion. If you cast it while jumping or moving, the range will be higher (through a mechanic called leeway) and the chances you hit more mobs in chaotic pulls will be higher. In rare situations where tanks cannot generate a lot of AoE threat, Arcane Subtlety IconArcane Subtlety gives your Arcane Explosion 40% less threat, making this spell safer to use than Blizzard IconBlizzard.

It is noteworthy that in WotLK the AoE cap is defined by 10 mobs. This means if you would attempt to AoE more than 10 enemies, you will always deal as much damage as you would deal to 10 mobs. Below 10 mobs, your AoE damage is not capped.

This WeakAura by Hildigunnur shows you a list of targets you have threat on and displays your threat relative to your tank. There are several such modifications on wago.io; just search there for 'aoe threat'.


Tips and Tricks for Using AoE Spells

All AoE spells can be combined with the Icy Veins IconIcy Veins talent and other Haste-increasing abilities, as Haste increases casting speed, lowers the Global Cooldown for instant-cast spells (to a minimum of 1s), and increases the rate at which Blizzard IconBlizzard damage is ticking. If your tank threat allows, stacking as many damage- and Haste-increasing effects, such as Icy Veins IconIcy Veins, Bloodlust IconBloodlust/Heroism IconHeroism, Potion of Speed Icon Potion of Speed (if not Haste capped, else Potion of Wild Magic Icon Potion of Wild Magic), Arcane Power IconArcane Power, Tricks of the Trade IconTricks of the Trade, from Rogues, and trinkets together with AoE spells greatly increases your damage. Further, the macro below allows you to macro Saronite Bomb Icon Saronite Bombs into your Blizzard's and Flamestrike IconFlamestrike's cursor position, and Global Thermal Sapper Charge Icon Global Thermal Sapper Charge and Saronite Bomb Icon Saronite Bomb at your player position when casting Arcane Explosion IconArcane Explosion:

Blizzard IconBlizzard Macro:

  • /use 13
  • /use Potion of Speed
  • /cast Icy Veins
  • /cast Berserking
  • /cast Arcane Power
  • /use [@cursor] Saronite Bomb
  • /cast [@cursor] Blizzard
  • /cqs

Arcane Explosion IconArcane Explosion Macro:

  • /use 13
  • /use Potion of Speed
  • /cast Icy Veins
  • /cast Berserking
  • /cast Arcane Power
  • /use Global Thermal Sapper Charge
  • /use [@player] Saronite Bomb
  • /cast Arcane Explosion
  • /cqs

The trinket in the upper trinket slot is accessed via /use 13, while the trinket in the lower trinket slot via /use 14. You can only use one activation trinket at a time. If you wish to not include any trinket, potion, buff, or bomb in your macro, simply leave these lines out. The tag [@cursor] casts the Saronite Bomb Icon Saronite Bomb and Blizzard IconBlizzard at your cursor position, [@player] casts the Saronite Bomb Icon Saronite Bomb at your player position. If you wish to use another spell, such as Cone of Cold IconCone of Cold, simply write Cone of Cold instead of Arcane Explosion IconArcane Explosion in the macro.

Be careful when using Frost Nova IconFrost Nova, you might kill your friends (or yourself). Frozen enemies that cannot reach their highest-threat target, which is usually the tank, will instead attack the closest target.


Single Target Damage

Arcane Mages are capable of doing huge amounts of single-target damage, especially in shorter fights with Arcane Power IconArcane Power and Icy Veins IconIcy Veins. The single-target (ST) rotation is a bit more complicated than it was in TBC. In order to make it more readable, we suggest memorizing these abbreviations:

Each time you cast Arcane Blast IconArcane Blast, the damage of all Arcane spells is increased by 15% and the Mana cost of Arcane Blast is increased by 175%. This effect stacks up to 4 times and lasts 6 sec or until any Arcane damage spell except Arcane Blast is cast. In other words, you can obtain 4 stacks of the damage debuff and casting Arcane Blast will make you go OoM very fast! Any Arcane spell except for Arcane Blast will remove the debuff and get a massive damage bonus (which is why you stack it 4 times). This is where AM comes into play. With Mbar, the cast time of your AM is halved (scales with Haste), but you need to stand still while casting. With Abar you can remove the AB stacks while moving, but it deals less damage than AM. Therefore your main rotation will look like this:

  1. Cast 4x Arcane Blast IconArcane Blast (AB)
  2. If Missile Barrage IconMissile Barrage (Mbar) proc, cast Arcane Missiles IconArcane Missiles (AM). With no Mbar proc, cast AB
  3. If Missile Barrage IconMissile Barrage (Mbar) proc, cast Arcane Missiles IconArcane Missiles (AM). With no Mbar proc, cast AB
  4. Arcane Missiles IconArcane Missiles (AM)
  5. Start at step 1 whenever you cast Arcane Missiles IconArcane Missiles.

If this rotation is confusing to you, cast 4AB -> AM and repeat. In any case you should use a Nochanneling macro for whenever you cast Arcane Blast IconArcane Blast, in order to not clip your Arcane Missiles IconArcane Missiles cast:

  • #showtooltip
  • /cast [nochanneling: Arcane Missiles] Arcane Blast

Regardless of which rotation you feel comfortable with, cast Evocation IconEvocation when you are OOM (out of Mana) and make sure to use your Mana Sapphire Icon Mana Sapphire on cooldown. A good macro for using Mana Sapphire is the following (this macro can also be used with potions, simply replace Mana Sapphire with the potion name):

  • #showtooltip Arcane Blast
  • /use Mana Sapphire
  • /cast [nochanneling: Arcane Missiles] Arcane Blast
  • /cqs

A good way to pump your DPS from stacking cooldowns is to use your Mirror Image IconMirror Image on cooldown and to stack the Arcane Blast IconArcane Blast debuff to 4 stacks and then use the following macro when you have an Mbar proc:

  • /use 13
  • /use Potion of Speed
  • /cast Icy Veins
  • /cast Berserking
  • /cast Arcane Power
  • /use [@cursor] Saronite Bomb
  • /cast Arcane Missiles
  • /cqs

This way you will use your top trinket (13 is the top trinket slot, 14 is the bottom trinket slot), a Potion of Speed Icon Potion of Speed, Icy Veins IconIcy Veins, Berserking IconBerserking (only relevant for trolls), Arcane Power IconArcane Power, throw a Saronite Bomb Icon Saronite Bomb at your cursor position, and cast Arcane Missiles IconArcane Missiles on your target.


Other Important Arcane Mage Spells to Have Keybound

Mirror Image IconMirror Image — Should be used for additional damage, as the Mirror Images attack your enemy and do additional damage, or to disappear from the threat list while doing heavy burst (AoE) damage. Mirror Images benefit from Bloodlust IconBloodlust/Heroism IconHeroism if cast beforehand and only attack if an enemy is nearby and you are already in combat with them.

Arcane Barrage IconArcane Barrage (Abar) and Fire Blast IconFire Blast — Will be cast while moving or to finish off an enemy with a last cast. Fire Blast has no travel time. Abar has a 3-second cooldown, so when moving or finishing mobs, the optimal rotation to use these spells would be Arcane Barrage IconArcane Barrage -> Fire Blast IconFire Blast -> Arcane Barrage IconArcane Barrage.

Presence of Mind IconPresence of Mind (Pom or PoM) — Makes your next damage spell with a cast time less than 10 seconds an instant-cast, and can also be used as a finisher like Arcane Barrage IconArcane Barrage and Fire Blast IconFire Blast:

  • /cast Presence of Mind
  • /cast [nochanneling: Arcane Missiles] Arcane Blast
  • /cqs

Further, Pom also triggers Arcane Potency IconArcane Potency, increasing the Critical Strike chance of the next instant-cast spell by 30%. However, this talent is a little bit tricky, as only the first missile of Arcane Missiles IconArcane Missiles benefits from the crit bonus, while a whole Blizzard IconBlizzard benefits from it. Channeled spells do not consume the instant- cast effect of this spell, so you can use the Critical Strike chance for, say, Blizzard and follow it up with an instant-cast Flamestrike IconFlamestrike.

Remove Curse IconRemove Curse — While this is no damage spell, it is of high importance to decurse on some fights, and doing so is part of being a good Mage.

Spellsteal IconSpellsteal — In some fights you either help your team to survive or you gain a massive buff when spell stealing from enemies.

Polymorph IconPolymorph — Turning your enemies into a sheep for 50 seconds is sometimes required in PvE encounters and you should always be ready to use this spell.

Blink IconBlink — This can either be used to travel a large distance within one GCD and continue casting or to move out of dangerous boss mechanics. Blink can be seen as a passive DPS increase, as you travel forward 20 yards and then have 1.5s global cooldown to position before you can cast again. Moving the same distance would take significantly longer and would reduce your overall casting time. If you are a good Mage, using this spell to avoid movement is a sign of quality.

Ice Block IconIce Block — Makes you immune to most kinds of damage. If you pulled aggro from a mob, they return to the 2nd-highest threat target (which usually is the tank). It can also be used to remove deadly debuffs from you.

Mana Shield IconMana Shield, Frost Ward IconFrost Ward, and Fire Ward IconFire Ward — absorb damage and can be useful in some PvE situations.


Other Useful Combat Abilities

Playing a Mage does not only mean to press the Arcane Blast IconArcane Blast and Arcane Missiles IconArcane Missiles buttons, but also managing your Mana, using crowd control spells, and making sure you survive.

Please consider taking a look at the Arcane Mage spells if you want to refresh your memory.



  • 06 Jan. 2023: Added Phase 2 specific information.
  • 06 Oct. 2022: Added more info to Flamestrike stacking.
  • 03 Oct. 2022: Fixed some macro errors.
  • 14 Sep. 2022: Page added.
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