Arcane Mage DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.1.5
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 — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.1.5.
1. Ability Priority List for Arcane Mage
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:
- Show AoE lines
- Show Rune of Power
- Show Overpowered
- Show Rule of Threes
- Show Charged Up
- Show Arcane Orb
- Show Nether Tempest
- Show Mirror Image
- Show Amplification
- Show Supernova
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.
1.1. 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:
- Arcane Power is ready;
- you have 4 charges of Arcane Charges;
- you have at least 50% Mana.
Below we have listed the order in which you should perform your spells during the Burn Phase.
- Cast Arcane Power.
- Cast Presence of Mind if Arcane Power would run out before you can finish your next Arcane Blast.
- Cast Arcane Barrage if there are 3 or more targets and you have 4 stacks of Arcane Charges.
- Cast Arcane Missiles when Clearcasting procs and you have less than 95% Mana, and Arcane Power is not active.
- 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.
1.2. Conserve Phase
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 Rune of Power if you will cap on Rune of Power charges before Arcane Power is ready, and you have 4 Arcane Charges.
- Cast Arcane Blast if you have the Rule of Threes buff.
- Cast Arcane Explosion if there are 3 or more targets and you have Clearcasting.
- Cast Arcane Missiles when Clearcasting procs.
- Cast Arcane Barrage if you have 4 Arcane Charges and you have less than 60% Mana (80% Mana if you would cap on Rune of Power charges before Arcane Power is ready, or if using at least one Equipoise).
- Cast Arcane Blast.
- You want to sustain at 80% Mana if you plan to use a Rune of Power before the next Burn Phase.
- If you no longer plan to use a Rune of Power during your Conserve Phase ,you want to sustain at 60% (80% if using at least one Equipoise) Mana.
2. Important Notes for Arcane Mage
2.1. 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 during the Conserve phase. Since it is Mana neutral to cast 4 Arcane Blasts followed by an Arcane Barrage, as long as you run Rule of Threes (or have a decent amount of Mastery on your gear), you should never cast Arcane Barrage with less than 4 Arcane Charges.
It is important to use Arcane Missiles instantly when you get Clearcasting, since it does not stack, and Clearcasting indirectly equals a lot of free Mana, since it allows you to regenerate Mana while channeling Arcane Missiles. This in turn allows you to cast more Arcane Blasts at 4 Arcane Charges.
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.
2.2. 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.
2.3. 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 Gnosis, 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. This is the castbar used almost unanimously by all high level players, but it is especially beneficial for Arcane Mage due to the importance of Arcane Missiles.
2.4. 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.
2.5. Rune of Power
Rune of Power is a medium length cooldown that is best used to apply significant pressure during its duration. You should always overlap Rune of Power and Arcane Power, as this will result in the maximum possible burst. Start by casting Rune of Power, and immediately activating Arcane Power at the end of the cast, so they will both end at the same time. Rune of Power does have 2 charges, allowing you to save the second for a usage of your choice. Good times to use your second rune charge:
- after Arcane Power ends and you have enough Mana to last another 10 seconds in the Burn phase;
- to push a damage check;
- when several advantageous procs overlap;
- during a period of zero movement;
- with excess Mana in the Conserve phase at 4 Arcane Charges;
- on AoE.
2.6. Prismatic Barrier
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.
3. 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.
3.1. 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, making this regeneration highly variable depending on your level of gear. On the flip-side, the more Haste you have, the faster you will use up your Mana.
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 a Rune of Power charge in advance.
Mana regenerates at a fixed 2% of base Mana per second. Arcane Familiar does not increase this 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.
3.2. 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!
3.3. Movement Management
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.
Displacement 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 Displacement and do not be afraid to get creative with how you use it! It should be noted that when using Shimmer, your casts are also uninterrupted by Displacement in addition. The Shimmer talent is very strong overall, allowing you to stay in line of sight and in range mid cast if the boss moves, or quickly dodge a mechanic without interruption.
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.
3.3.1. Quiet 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.
4. Arcane Mage: Opening Sequence
- Use Battle Potion of Intellect 2 seconds before the pull.
- Cast Arcane Blast 2 seconds before the pull.
- Cast Charged Up if you have it talented, otherwise cast 3 more Arcane Blasts.
- Place Rune of Power.
- Activate Arcane Power and any racial cooldowns or on-use trinkets.
- Cast Arcane Blast as a filler.
- Cast Arcane Missiles when Clearcasting procs and you do not have Arcane Power active.
- Place Rune of Power again when Arcane Power ends.
- Cast Arcane Missiles when Clearcasting procs and you have Amplification talented.
- Cast Arcane Missiles when Clearcasting procs and you have less than 95% Mana, and Arcane Power is not active.
- 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.
- Cast Evocation when your Mana is empty and commence Conserve phase.
- 15 Apr. 2019: This page has been reviewed and no changes are necessary for the release of the Crucible of Storms raid.
- 03 Mar. 2019: Updated the rotation to mention Equipoise trait for clarity.
- 10 Dec. 2018: This page has been reviewed for Patch 8.1 and no changes are necessary.
- 30 Sep. 2018: Made the rotation slightly clearer based on what checkboxes are selected.
- 29 Sep. 2018: Added checkboxes to show rotation based on talents.
- 02 Sep. 2018: Optimized Rune of Power usage in rotation.
- 30 Aug. 2018: Changed rotation to make use of the free Arcane Blast from Rule of Threes in specific situations.
- 28 Aug. 2018: Changed rotation for more optimal Presence of Mind usage.
- 25 Aug. 2018: Changed opening sequence to ignore Clearcasting during Arcane Power.
- 21 Aug. 2018: Updated rotation to also ignore Clearcasting procs during Arcane Power.
- 20 Aug. 2018: Updated rotation to conserve at 60% mana because it is better at pre-raid gear levels.
- 18 Aug. 2018: Optimize the rotation for new findings.
- 13 Aug. 2018: Remove mention for a Legion tier bonus.
- 12 Aug. 2018: Updated for Battle for Azeroth launch.
- 23 Jul. 2018: Update rotation to not wait for Evocation to start burn for slightly better DPS.
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