Arcane Mage DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Shadowlands Pre-Patch 9.0.1
On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Arcane Mage in both single-target and multiple-target situations. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS. All our content is updated for World of Warcraft — Shadowlands Pre-Patch 9.0.1.
If you were looking for WoW Classic content, please refer to our Classic DPS Mage rotation.
Arcane Mage Rotation
Welcome to our Rotation page for Arcane Mages. On this page you will find everything you need to know about actually playing the spec in Raiding scenarios.
The primary focus on this page is on raiding scenarios. Although the rotation is going to give pretty good results in Mythic+ as well, for a more Mythic+ oriented rotation, see our Mythic+ page.
If the rotations below seem overwhelming to you, or you would simply like to read a more simplified version of the rotation, you might benefit from visiting our Easy Mode page which outlines a close-to-optimal rotation in simpler terms.
The content on this page is purely PvE-related. If you are looking for PvP Rotation Tips, please visit our PvP page below.
Single-Target Rotation for Arcane Mage
There is a specific rotation that works only for very well geared Arcane Mages and has specific gear requirements. If you are interested in reading about this Arcane Missiles rotation, see our explanation on it here.
Use the switches below to tailor the rotation to the talents you are using or situations you expect to be facing, and it will populate the rotation priority list appropriately:
The rotation of an Arcane Mage is outlined in the following priority list. The concept is to maintain a high and stable Mana pool during your Conserve Phase, biding time until your cooldowns are available. As soon as your cooldowns are ready, you enter the Burn Phase where you siphon all your Mana into damage. After the Burn phase concludes, you recoup your entire Mana pool using Evocation, and the cycle begins anew.
The Burn Phase
The Burn phase commences at the start of the encounter, and whenever Arcane Power is off cooldown thereafter. It is important to ensure you will not be interrupted during the Burn phase, so avoid entering this part of the rotating during heavy movement or when volatile mechanics are active.
You can enter the Burn Phase when the following is all true:
Below we have listed the order in which you should perform your spells during the Burn Phase.
- Use Arcane Barrage if you have 4 Arcane Charges and Touch of the Magi is ready.
- Cast Touch of the Magi.
- Cast Arcane Power.
- Cast Rune of Power if Rune of Power is not already active.
- Cast Presence of Mind if Arcane Power would run out before you can finish your next Arcane Blast.
- Use Mana Gem when you are at 85% Mana or lower.
- Cast Arcane Missiles when Clearcasting is up.
- Cast Arcane Blast.
- Cast Evocation when out of Mana.
- If you run out of Mana before Evocation is available, simply use Arcane Barrage to reset your Arcane Charges, and continue like normal until Evocation is available.
See our Opening Sequence for instructions on what to cast when the fight starts.
The Conserve Phase is deceptively straightforward, but it mercilessly punishes mistakes. Once Evocation is on cooldown, the only way to regain your Mana is by waiting for it to slowly regenerate. Therefore, paying close attention to your Mana and your available spells is of crucial importance. During the Conserve Phase you should try to maximize the amount of time spent casting Arcane Blast with 4 Arcane Charges, while keeping your Mana high enough during the Conserve Phase, so that when your Arcane Power comes off cooldown you are able to Burn as much Mana as possible within that window for optimal output.
- Cast Touch of the Magi if you have 0 Arcane Charges and Arcane Power is not ready for at least 30 more seconds.
- Cast Rune of Power when Touch of the Magi is up on your target.
- Cast Arcane Missiles when Clearcasting procs.
- Cast Arcane Barrage if you have 4 Arcane Charges , Touch of the Magi is ready and Arcane Power is not ready for at least 30 more seconds.
- Cast Arcane Barrage if you have 4 Arcane Charges and you are below 90% Mana.
- Cast Arcane Blast.
- Cast Arcane Barrage if you do not have enough Mana for Arcane Blast.
Multi-Target Rotation for Arcane Mage
The way you switch between burn and conserve phases remains the same in Multi-Target scenarios, but there are some spell usage changes to the rotation depending on target counts.
On 3 targets or more, you cast Arcane Explosion instead of Arcane Blast. Additionally, whenever you reach 4 Arcane Charges, cast Arcane Barrage, even in the burn phase. This effectively means that in 3+ target situations, you cast Arcane Explosion 4 times, followed by Arcane Barrage.
Arcane Missiles Rotation
The "Arcane Missiles Rotation" (sometimes "Arcane Missiles Spam Rotation") is a rotation that exists for high geared mages in the pre-patch of Shadowlands. The rotation requires running 3 pieces with Arcane Pummeling, the Amplification talent and overall high item level gear (full or nearly full Mythic Ny'alotha gear, especially 135+ item level Azerite).
This rotation is the highest DPS rotation available to Mages in the Shadowlands pre-patch. Although not complex in principle, it has a couple of intricacies that will have a huge impact on your DPS.
Arcane Missiles Spam Rotation Changes
- Instead of Arcane Blast as your filler, it becomes Arcane Missiles.
- Cast Arcane Barrage whenever you have 4 Arcane Charges and Rune of Power and Touch of the Magi are not currently active, or have less than 1 second remaining.
- Cast Arcane Orb whenever you have less than 4 Arcane Charges and Rune of Power and Touch of the Magi are not currently active, or have less than 1 second remaining.
- When Evocation is not ready, and you are running low on mana, cast Arcane Blast if you have less than 2 Arcane Charges.
Important Notes for Arcane Missiles Spam
Using every single Arcane Charge
The above sounds very straight forward, however, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind. Arcane Missiles costs a lot of mana, and spamming it will run you out of mana very quickly. Due to this, you will want to try to weave in as many hard hitting Arcane Barrage without wasting time or mana on Arcane Blast. To accomplish this, you will want to make sure every "free" Arcane Charge you get (via Touch of the Magi and Arcane Orb) gets used on Arcane Barrage, so you do not waste any Arcane Charges.
Chaining Arcane Missiles Properly for Arcane Missiles Spam
Additionally, chaining Arcane Missiles properly is extremely important for this rotation. If you do not do this properly, you will lose a lot of DPS. When you begin casting Arcane Missiles between the last two ticks of an Arcane Missiles cast, the final tick of the first cast will be 'transferred' to the second Arcane Missiles cast. This means that when you cast 2 Arcane Missiles in a row, casting the second Arcane Missiles in-between the last 2 ticks of the first cast, will result in 4 ticks on the first Arcane Missiles and 6 on the second, instead of 5 on each. It is extremely important that you do this with this rotation, as you will lose out on a lot of Arcane Missiles hits if you start your next cast early, or end up with downtime between casts if you cast it late.
There is however one exception to this rule of chaining Arcane Missiles. You should not chain your next Arcane Missiles when you are currently casting an Arcane Missiles with Clearcasting, unless your next Arcane Missiles will also be cast with Clearcasting. This is because Arcane Pummeling resets every time you cast Arcane Missiles, and you want to make sure you get all ticks of Arcane Missiles to benefit from Arcane Pummeling, and not miss out on one tick by adding it to the next Arcane Missiles.
- Always chain Arcane Missiles casts, unless...
- You are currently casting Arcane Missiles that benefits from Clearcasting, and your next Arcane Missiles cast will not benefit from Clearcasting.
Important Notes for Arcane Mage
Arcane Charges: Understanding Your Mana Pool
If you are unfamiliar with Arcane, managing your Arcane Charges can be a bit confusing at first. Arcane as a specialization is fundamentally very straightforward, but also stands apart from many specializations in the respect that you have full control over your damage output and resources at all times. Ultimately, the only wild card in the Arcane rotation is Clearcasting, and it alters the specialization in a unique way. Since Arcane Missiles does not cost any Mana to cast when used during Clearcasting, it functions as a way to regenerate Mana without having to cast Arcane Barrage. Every time you do a new pull on a boss, you will reorganize your abilities into a different sequence due to the randomness of Clearcasting procs. Ultimately this results in a reactive playstyle revolving around your Mana pool.
For each Arcane Charge you have, you deal more damage with Arcane Blast, however, the Mana cost is also increased by 100% per charge. It is not possible to maintain a stable Mana pool by only casting Arcane Blast at 4 Arcane Charges, and therefore you will have to sometimes clear your charges with Arcane Barrage.
In conclusion, your Mana pool and Arcane Charges have inverse synergy. The longer you remain at higher stacks of Arcane Charges, the faster your Mana bar will deplete, but the more burst damage you will deal. The shorter you remain at higher stacks of Arcane Charges, the easier it will be to maintain a stable Mana pool (or possibly regenerate Mana), though you will deal less burst damage. Clearcasting serves as a tool to allow you to remain at high stacks for an increased period without penalty, but occurs randomly, keeping you on your toes. Finally, during the Burn phase the intent is to permanently remain at maximum Arcane Charges until your Mana pool is entirely depleted.
Spells That Benefit From Arcane Charges
Evocation is not affected by Arcane Charges, but it is still preferable to ensure you do not clear your charges with Arcane Barrage before casting Evocation. The reason for this is that you will finish Evocation with 100% Mana and 4 Arcane Charges, allowing you to immediately cast a 4 charge Arcane Blast instead of Mana capping for a few seconds.
Managing "Mini-Burns" with Touch of the Magi and Rune of Power
Since Touch of the Magi and Rune of Power share a relatively similar cooldown, it is important to combine these two cooldowns. Especially with Arcane Echo talented (which is suggested), the damage you can do during one of these mini-burns is very high. To maximize these mini-burns, ensure the following:
- You have at least 70% Mana (when running Enlightened),
- Touch of the Magi and Rune of Power are both ready,
- After activating both Touch of the Magi and Rune of Power (in that order), only cast Arcane Missiles until Touch of the Magi drops off,
- Cast Arcane Blast until Rune of Power only has one second left,
- When Rune of Power is about to run out, cast Arcane Barrage.
Truncating Arcane Missiles
Many channeled basic spells, such as Drain Soul, benefit from truncating (or "clipping") the channel after the tick before the last tick, allowing you to immediately lead into the next cast without delay. Arcane Missiles, however, fires off an extra missile every time it ticks throughout the channel, making it extremely beneficial to fully complete your channel before queuing up the next spell. Many players will accidentally clip the last tick of the channel, cancelling the final missile and robbing them of a noticeable amount of damage.
This can be solved by using !nochannel macros, which prevents you from interrupting a channeled spell with another cast. This induces slight input lag, causing a slight delay between the end of your channel and the beginning of a new cast, so it is not recommended. For players that want maximum results, the best solution is AddOns. The easiest way to avoid missile clipping is by installing Quartz, a cast bar AddOn specifically designed to make channeled ticks easily identifiable. Unlike the in-game castbar or most other AddOns, it updates dynamically with latency so your true tick rate is always displayed.
Effectively Handling AoE
As a specialization that is typically known for single target damage, AoE is a bit of a foreign concept to some Arcane Mages. It is possible, however, to deal very effective AoE damage as Arcane. Arcane Power does technically affect your AoE spells, however, it is often inefficient to dedicate your Burn phase to AoE damage (generally speaking), however, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, in a dungeon environment where you know your cooldowns will be up in time for the boss, it makes sense to use your cooldowns to help clear the trash in a more timely fashion.
There are 2 main spells that are the reason Arcane Mages can do good AoE damage, namely Arcane Explosion and Arcane Barrage. The idea is to cast Arcane Explosion from 0 to 4 Arcane Charges, doing significant damage, and then following it up with a very hard hitting Arcane Barrage, especially with Resonance. It is important to realize, that this is not Mana neutral, so you will eventually run out of Mana when keeping this rotation up for prolonged periods of time. So make sure you keep an eye on your Mana bar, to ensure you keep enough Mana for the rest of the fight.
If you need to continue doing AoE damage for prolonged periods of time, there is a Mana neutral rotation that can be used via the use of Rule of Threes. Instead of using Arcane Explosion when on 3 Arcane Charges, you instead use Arcane Blast to go from 3 Arcane Charges to 4. Because of Rule of Threes, the Arcane Blast going from 3 to 4 Arcane Charges will not cost any Mana, saving a good portion of your Mana by casting less Arcane Explosions, and regaining Mana during the cast time of the free Arcane Blast. This is only suggested when it is very important to be able to keep up AoE damage for a long period of time, as Rule of Threes is otherwise not the best talent.
Do not forget to cast this any time you have to slightly reposition and Blink/ Shimmer is either unavailable or would move you too far to be useful. It lasts for 30 seconds, and has a 30-second cooldown, meaning you can keep a 100% uptime on the magic damage reduction if magic damage taken is heavy. You can and should cast it before the start of every engagement.
Core Concepts for Arcane Mage
Arcane Mage is an elementary enough specialization to perform on a target dummy, but there are a few key factors that will separate the good from the great. Learning to focus on what is important and master the core concepts of a specialization is what leads to strong overall performance on the damage charts. There are 3 major concepts that form the central trinity of optimizing for success:
- Mana management during the Conserve phase;
- flawless execution during the Burn phase;
- movement management.
Managing movement is a fundamental skill shared by all the caster classes in World of Warcraft. The highly mobile nature of the Mage class allows flexible and creative ways to move during combat, making it of supreme importance that you give this the proper respect.
Mana Management During Conserve Phase
It is highly recommended you develop an instinct for your Mana regeneration rate by practicing on a target dummy or in LFR. The more Mastery you have, the faster you will regenerate Mana in combat, whereas the more Haste you have, the faster you will spend your Mana, making this regeneration highly variable depending on your level of gear.
It is important to have a good sense of the interplay between your Arcane Charges and your current Mana pool. On encounters with cleave and AoE, pay close attention to your timers if you plan on capitalizing on the extra targets. If you need to unleash a little extra burst in the Conserve phase for an important add, AoE opportunities, or to push a damage check, ensure you correctly budget Mana and Rune of Power + Touch of the Magi in advance.
Arcane Familiar does not increase base Mana regeneration. Evocation however, does benefit from the extra 10% Mana from Arcane Familiar. This is further increased through stacking Mastery, which will increase your maximum Mana and Mana regeneration and thus lower the number of Arcane Barrage casts per fight, allowing you to stay at 4 Arcane Charges longer.
If you have an AddOn that allows you detach your Mana bar, it is highly recommended you put it somewhere near the lower centre of your screen so you can easily keep track of your current resource level. Newer players tend to overburn during the Conserve phase and are unable to execute a complete Burn phase because of this.
Although the Burn Phase is often seen as the most important part of the Arcane rotation, this does not mean that you should not try to maximize the amount of Mana you use during the Conserve phase, especially since you spend a long portion of the fight in this phase. You should absolutely never sit on 100% Mana, because every second spent at a 100% Mana is Mana wasted. Especially with high Mastery levels, you can cast a surprising amount of Arcane Blasts during the Conserve phase before you need to start using Arcane Barrage actively.
Executing the Burn Phase Consistently
Although the Burn Phase is only a small portion in terms of time spent, it is not a small portion of your total damage at all. During your Burn Phase, you can do enormous amounts of damage in this short time window. Therefore, it is very important to consistently perform your Burn Phase correctly. Arcane Power should be used on cooldown wherever possible, though you do want it to overlap with any other major damage buffs (such as Rune of Power or raid mechanics that increase your damage). You should cast Evocation immediately upon hitting 0 Mana, so the cooldown becomes available as quickly as possible.
Pay close attention to the Burn Phase priority list posted at the top of this page. This seems very straightforward on the surface, but a surprising number of players will stutter in the execution. Make sure you are prepared before entering the Burn phase!
While it is difficult to describe the best ways to position and move during a dungeon or raid encounter, it is essential to your success as an Arcane Mage.
Try and use Blink for "urgent" movement — when you need to travel from one place to another as quickly as possible. Prismatic Barrier is a good choice when you only need to take a few steps, as it only costs a single GCD. Shimmer is a great talent as it is off GCD and does not interrupt your current cast, allowing you to continue casting when a damaging raid mechanic spawns under you, by shimmering out of it.
Alter Time is underutilized by a lot of players, but is an essential part of your mobility kit. This spell is fantastic for mechanics that force you to run out of the raid and return moments later. It is also great for dealing with dance mechanics — after the "dance" ends you can return to your original location without delay. Do not underestimate Alter Time and do not be afraid to get creative with how you use it!
Always try to position yourself in a location central to fight movement. For example, if the boss is being moved in a circle, try to stay on the inside of the kite path to ensure minimal movement.
Many players will unconsciously move during fights, despite it being unnecessary. For example, sometimes the boss or adds will be moved by the tank a couple yards, and though you are still in range to cast, you subconsciously mirror that movement, costing you global cooldowns. Consciously work to "quiet" your movement, and reduce unnecessary movement to a minimum. The best way to see this in action is to take a video of your raid, then watch yourself play. Most players will be surprised by the amount of wasted movement they commit. When you are forced to move, make use of the tips above, and make your path as direct and decisive as possible.
Arcane Mage: Opening Sequence
- Cast Arcane Blast 2 seconds before the pull.
- Cast Touch of the Magi.
- Activate Arcane Power and any racial cooldowns or on-use trinkets.
- Cast Arcane Missiles while Touch of the Magi is active, if you are running Arcane Echo.
- Cast Arcane Missiles when Clearcasting procs.
- Place Rune of Power when Arcane Power ends.
- Cast Arcane Blast as a filler.
- Cast Presence of Mind if Rune of Power or Arcane Power would run out before you can finish your next Arcane Blast.
- Use Mana Gem when you are at 85% Mana or lower.
- Cast Evocation when your Mana is empty and commence Conserve phase.
- 21 Oct. 2020: Added a section for the Arcane Missiles Spam rotation.
- 12 Oct. 2020: Page updated for the Shadowlands pre-patch.
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