Classic Mage DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities
If you have not already, please read the spells summary page. Knowing how each spell and ability works in detail will greatly increase your understanding of the topics discussed on this page.
Rotation for Mages
We will present the skill rotation of a Mage as a priority list. This is not an exact sequence in which abilities should be cast. Instead, what it means is, whenever you must choose between using different skills, try to use the one at the top of the list first.
Our list assumes you are running one of the recommended builds from the talents page and are playing a max level character. If you are still leveling, please refer to the leveling page for a leveling-specific rotation.
While they are extraordinarily powerful, explosives such as Goblin Sapper Charge will not be detailed in the rotation. Usually, you will want to use them as soon as the tank has solid threat on the target. The main exception is when you are facing multiple or particularly dangerous (such as enraged) enemies at some point in the fight. Saving explosives to carry you and your group through these moments (and possibly do a ton of AoE damage in the process) is probably worth it.
Pre-Pull Strategy for Mages
- Ensure Arcane Intellect is buffed on the whole group, and your choice of Mage armor is up on yourself. Consider whether you will need Dampen Magic or Amplify Magic for the upcoming fight.
Single-Target Rotation for Mages
- Use Fire Blast and Arcane Explosion to finish off enemies about to die.
- Maximize Winter's Chill and Improved Scorch stacks on the enemy.
- Use Frostbolt if Frost-specced, Fireball otherwise.
Multi-Target Rotation for Mages (in a group, any spec)
- (For Frost Mages) Cast Cone of Cold if you are close enough to the enemies.
- (For Frost Mages) Cast Blizzard to DPS the enemies down, taking care not to start casts before the previous one is finished.
- (For Fire Mages) Use Blast Wave whenever possible.
- (For Fire Mages) Keep Flamestrike's ground effect active on enemies. If you have Improved Flamestrike, chain cast it instead.
- Use Arcane Explosion to finish off low health enemies, or even to deal the bulk of the damage if you are specced into Improved Arcane Explosion and can be close enough to enemies.
Multi-Target Rotation for Mages (Frost solo AoE grinding)
- Cast Mana Shield and Ice Barrier before pulling, to prevent being dazed or dismounted.
- Use your mount, body pull, or wand to aggro packs of melee enemies, while staying away from their attack range as much as possible.
- Cast Frost Nova to root enemies in place (use Cold Snap if some resist the Frost Nova) and walk or Blink, to gain distance from them.
- Cast Blizzard to DPS the enemies down, taking care not to start casts before the previous one is finished, and ensuring enemies will not reach you during the full cast.
- Cast Cone of Cold when enemies are close enough to all be hit by it, and kite away until Frost Nova is ready again, at which point you should repeat the rotation from Frost Nova's point onward.
- Wand or Arcane Explosion down the last remaining bits of health on any remaining enemy.
Cooldown Usage for Mages
As a Mage, you have various offensive and defensive cooldowns at your disposal. Using your offensive cooldowns properly is often the difference between topping damage or just being average, and as such, you should learn how they work and how to optimize their usage.
Combustion should be used when you have trinkets and other cooldowns available to stack with it, or when you need the burst damage to get through enrages, or other difficult phases.
Presence of Mind
Presence of Mind can also be used to burst with Pyroblast (or Frostbolt / Fireball), or to instantly crowd control an enemy with Polymorph, among other, more niche, uses.
Arcane Power increases your damage by 30% but makes them also cost 30% more Mana, and only lasts 15 seconds, with a 3-minute cooldown. This is a very powerful boost to your damage, but ultimately it requires a heavy commitment to the Arcane tree that lowers your burst damage outside of the Arcane Power window.
Cold Snap is typically used to reset Frost Nova, Ice Block and Cone of Cold. Being capable of using these spells back to back in a short period makes Mages one of the most fearsome duelers, and allows you to really push your limits when you need to.
Ice Block's immunity period can be put to great use in order to avoid certain mechanics, such as Onyxia's fear effect, increasing your DPS in the process. It is also of great use if you screw up and need an emergency breather.
Ability Usage for Mages
Evocation is a great method by which you can quickly replenish your Mana pool during a fight. Make sure that you use it at low Mana and during a period in which you will be able to channel it to the end, without interruption.
Blink allows you to instantly break most stuns, and also to cover large distances quickly, avoiding potentially lethal area of effect spells in the nick of time.
Frost Nova gains time for you, and your group, against freezable melee enemies. Use it whenever things go wrong, or as a coordinated mean of reducing incoming damage.
Remove Lesser Curse provides a way to dispel dangerous effects, such as Lucifron's Curse or Gehennas' Curse, which only Mages and Druids can do. Make curse removal your #1 priority during progression!
Counterspell is one of the few ranged interrupts in WoW Classic. As such, you should always be paying attention to enemies outside of melee range that might need to be interrupted.
Polymorph is one of the few complete disables in the game that can be kept indefinitely on a target, in PvE at least. That, along with its short cast time and lack of special requirements to be cast, makes it the most popular way to take specific enemies out of a fight, until you or your group is ready to deal with them.
Mastering Your Mage
In this section, we will dive a bit deeper into the core mechanics and various abilities of Mages. Understanding these topics is an important step to truly mastering the specialization.
Mage's primary resource is Mana. It is important that you understand how Mana is generated, so you can effectively manage and use it.
Mana has a maximum capacity based on your Intellect, and starts full by default. Mana is slowly used by your spell casting, and does not regenerate naturally if you have cast something in the last 5 seconds. However, using certain talents, such as Arcane Meditation, or using Mage Armor allows a part of your Mana regeneration (which scales based on spirit) to continue during this period. Items that restore X Mana per 5 seconds, such as Nightfin Soup are also active at all times.
Your goal in any fight, is to kill the enemy before your Mana is completely gone. Shorter fights help make this goal easier to achieve, as does using Mana consumables such as your crafted Conjure Mana Ruby, Major Mana Potion or Demonic Runes.
Cloth Armor vs Control
Mages are the squishiest class in WoW Classic, due to the usage of cloth and the lack of direct survivability boosts such as Inner Fire or Soul Link. This means that, in order to survive, you need to use your kit to avoid being hit in the first place.
Make sure to keep that in mind at all times, and never let enemies get to you, in which case Ice Block is your best friend!
- 29 Jul. 2019: Corrected some text typos.
- 30 Jun. 2019: Page added.
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