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Arcane Mage PvP Guide (Legion 7.3.5)

Last updated on May 29, 2018 at 16:49 by Mysticall 3 comments

Table of Contents


This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to play an Arcane Mage in a PvP environment. The guide will cover everything from talent choices, artifacts, gameplay and rotation, and useful racial bonuses. It is most applicable to Arena content, but most talents and racial bonuses will work in Rated Battlegrounds and skirmishes.

About The Author

This guide has been written by Mysticall, a seasoned PvP player who has repeatedly achieved Arena Master and 2500 rating. You can watch his stream on Twitch, and you can also check out his YouTube channel.

1. Spec Overview / Place in the Current Meta for Arcane Mages

Arcane Mages are the most unique Mage specialization. Although they do have the crucial crowd control spell, Polymorph Icon Polymorph, they only have one casting-school. This means that sometimes it is better to not Polymorph Icon Polymorph at all and just focus on damage. Arcane Mages use spells like Arcane Orb Icon Arcane Orb and Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage for spread pressure.

1.1. Strengths of Arcane Mages

  • Great mobility
  • Strong single-target and spread damage
  • Great control

1.2. Weaknesses of Arcane Mages

  • Only one casting school
  • Predictable burst damage
  • Very few defensive cooldowns

2. Talent Choices for Arcane Mages

Regular talents work in both PvP and PvE content (although they may sometimes work differently in the two environments, which is indicated by their tooltips). In other words, they are always active.

On the other hand, Honor talents are inactive outside of a PvP environment.

2.1. Regular Talents

2.1.1. Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents

Amplification Icon Amplification is the best choice in this tier, and it will help with your overall damage.

2.1.2. Tier 2 (Level 30) Talents

Shimmer Icon Shimmer is the best choice in this tier. This is very strong when trying to get crowd control on the enemy team. If an enemy is trying to get out of line of sight of your Polymorph Icon Polymorph, for example, you can Shimmer while casting it and avoid losing line of sight. This talent replaces Blink Icon Blink.

2.1.3. Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents

Incanter's Flow Icon Incanter's Flow is the best choice in the tier. It provides great damage (especially when you are at 5 stacks). Be sure to track and time how many stacks your Incanter's Flow buff has before using your offensive cooldowns.

2.1.4. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents

Resonance Icon Resonance is the best choice in this tier. This talent increases your overall damage of Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage and your spread damage.

2.1.5. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents

When playing against a Restoration Druid, Ring of Frost Icon Ring of Frost is the best choice in this tier. Druids are difficult to get crowd control on as an Arcane Mage, and Ring of Frost helps with this. Assistance from a teammate (such as a Rogue stunning the Druid) will make it easier.

When not playing against a team with two melee, Chrono Shift Icon Chrono Shift is the best choice in this tier. This talent will help you kite away melee classes much easier, making it harder for them to kill you.

2.1.6. Tier 6 (Level 90) Talents

Erosion Icon Erosion is the best choice in this tier. This talent will increase your overall consistent damage.

2.1.7. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents

Arcane Orb Icon Arcane Orb is the best choice in this tier. This talent will give you even more consistent damage while giving you more charges of Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charge.

2.2. Honor Talents for Arcane Mages

2.2.1. Tier 1 Talents

If you are an Orc, Relentless Icon Relentless is the best choice in this tier. Arcane Mages can be the focus target of some teams, and this will help with getting out of stuns and getting away from the enemies.

If you are any other race, Gladiator's Medallion Icon Gladiator's Medallion is the best choice in this tier. This will help with getting out of stuns that you might be stuck in.

2.2.2. Tier 2 Talents

Mind Quickness Icon Mind Quickness is the best choice in this tier. It helps cast Polymorph Icon Polymorphs and damaging abilities much faster.

2.2.3. Tier 3 Talents

When playing against casters, Prismatic Cloak Icon Prismatic Cloak is the best choice. This ability causes all spells to miss you for 1.5 seconds after using Blink Icon Blink, and it helps significantly when trying to get crowd control off.

When playing against melee, Burning Determination Icon Burning Determination is the best choice. This helps in a few different scenarios against melee. If you are interrupted while casting Polymorph Icon Polymorph, you can spam Fireball Icon Fireballs; if are interrupted while casting Fireball, you can spam Polymorphs.

If you are playing against a team with two melee on it, Netherwind Armor Icon Netherwind Armor is the best choice in this tier. This will significantly reduce the damage done to you.

2.2.4. Tier 4 Talents

Temporal Shield Icon Temporal Shield the best choice in this tier. If you are being focused, this talent greatly increases your survivability. If it is dispelled, it will still heal you for however much you were attacked for while the shield was active.

If you are playing against a Restoration Druid, Kleptomania Icon Kleptomania is the best choice in this tier. This is a great ability for stealing all of the Druids HoTs and bursting down your enemy.

2.2.5. Tier 5 Talents

Torment the Weak Icon Torment the Weak is the best choice in this tier. This damage increase is great and also works for other slows that are not yours. Meaning that as long as the enemy is slowed, you will have a 15% damage increase on them.

2.2.6. Tier 6 Talents

Mass Invisibility Icon Mass Invisibility is the best choice in this tier. This will guarantee strong openers and gives you some utility.

3. Racial Bonuses for Arcane Mages

Racial bonuses can provide interesting PvP benefits. Here are the best races to choose for each faction.

3.1. Horde

The abilities gained from the Orc Race (Berserking Icon Berserking and Hardiness Icon Hardiness) both greatly benefit an Arcane Mage. Berserking will help when using offensive cooldowns to get more damage output; Hardiness is great when paired with Relentless Icon Relentless to break out of stuns faster.

The ability gained from the Blood Elf Race (Arcane Torrent Icon Arcane Torrent) comes in handy when you need just a little bit more crowd control on an enemy. It provides a 2-second silence, which can help in many situations.

3.2. Alliance

The Human racial bonus (Every Man for Himself Icon Every Man for Himself) is a great way to get out of stuns.

4. Playstyle for Arcane Mages

The Arcane Mage has two important roles in a 3v3 environment.

  • The first role that Arcane Mages have is crowd control. They not only have strong kiting tools for getting away from enemies, but they have strong tools to also cast and get crowd control on enemy players. Polymorph Icon Polymorph, the major Arcane Mage crowd control, can be used offensively (when trying to get a kill) or defensively (when trying to keep a teammate alive).
  • The second role an Arcane Mage has is having strong burst cooldowns. With relatively short major cooldowns, Arcane Mages have very strong consistent damage.

4.1. Before Gates Open

Be prepared to be the focus of many teams. This can be frustrating and make people shy away from Arcane, or Mages in general. That said, Arcane Mages have a lot of utility to get away from enemy teams, so make sure to use this to your advantage.

4.2. Crowd Control

This is where the Mage has always shined in PvP. There is no other class/spec that can crowd control a team as well as a Mage can, not to mention the large amount of utility at their disposal.

Although Arcane Mages lack the talent Ice Floes Icon Ice Floes that Frost has, Polymorph Icon Polymorph is still possible to land on a healer. The talent Shimmer Icon Shimmer comes in handy if you need to Blink Icon Blink to behind a pillar to land a Polymorph.

4.3. Offensive Rotation

Unlike the Fire and Frost Mage specs, Arcane only has one casting school, Arcane. What this means, is if you are interrupted at any time as an Arcane Mage, there is nothing you can do (whereas, if your Polymorph Icon Polymorph was interrupted as a Frost Mage, you could still cast Frost-School abilities). What this means as an Arcane Mage, it is sometimes better to not get any crowd control on the enemy healer (so as not to risk being locked out) and let your teammates do that while you focus on dealing damage.

4.3.1. The Opener

The opener refers to your team's opening crowd control chain and damage done as soon as you get out of the gates. The main goal in the opener is to force your enemies to use their cooldowns. If the enemy healer uses their trinket in the opener, they are in trouble. With the amount of crowd control and damage that Mages have, you can force cooldowns (trinkets and defensives) without having to use any cooldowns.

  1. Start the arena by using Invisibility Icon Invisibility.
  2. Use Mass Invisibility Icon Mass Invisibility. You can cast/use Shimmer Icon Shimmer while this ability is active. This will guarantee a Polymorph Icon Polymorph or Ring of Frost Icon Ring of Frost on the enemy healer (if you are focusing the enemy healer, Polymorph a DPS that can heal/peel for the healer).
  3. If the enemy team is letting you cast, use Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast.
  4. When the healer is in crowd control, use your burst rotation.

4.3.2. Burst Damage

When you have the enemy healer in crowd control and you are trying to kill an enemy, you should use your burst damage.

4.3.3. Sustained damage

Sustained damage is damage you do when your burst cooldowns are not available. When they are on cooldown, you want to be doing a combination of crowd control and generating Arcane Missiles Icon Arcane Missiles and Arcane Charge Icon Arcane Charges by using Arcane Explosion Icon Arcane Explosion. Use Slow Icon Slow and Polymorph Icon Polymorphs to control the enemy team.

4.4. Defensive Techniques

Ice Block Icon Ice Block is your main defensive ability. If you have run out of Shimmer Icon Shimmers and have no other ways to kite or survive, use this spell. This will protect you from all damage.

A Mage's crowd control is effectively a defensive technique for them. If the enemy team is using their offensive cooldowns, you can kite them by using Slow Icon Slow or by casting Polymorph Icon Polymorph and Blink Icon Blinking away.

Temporal Shield Icon Temporal Shield is one of the best defensive cooldowns Mages have. Use this when you are being focused and when at high health; the reason for using it at high health is that a great part of this spell is the 6-second HoT it applies to you to heal back the damage you have sustained — if you are at low health, you will probably die before you are able to benefit from the HoT. One of the skills to this ability is knowing when to cancel it (since canceling it triggers the HoT). If you are at half-health and use Temporal Shield, there is a good chance you will die with it still active; cancel it instead, so you can get healed for a large amount and not die with it still active.

Prismatic Barrier Icon Prismatic Barrier has also been given to Arcane Mages. This is a slightly weaker form of Ice Barrier Icon Ice Barrier. However, it is very strong against caster teams, reducing all harmful magic damage dealt to you.

5. Best Team Compositions for Arcane Mages

Now that you have the correct talents and understand your damage rotation, it is time to step into the arena with your team. With spells like Arcane Power Icon Arcane Power, almost unmatched mobility, and strong crowd control, Arcane Mages want to stay aggressive and control the enemy team.

5.1. 2v2 Arena

In 2v2 Arena, you do not have many options. It can be quite difficult to kill a healer in 2v2 by yourself, so you will likely be focusing an enemy DPS. Before you use your burst rotation, make sure the enemy healer is in crowd control. Ideally, you will be playing with a healer that can stun. After the stun, cast Polymorph Icon Polymorph on the healer and use your burst rotation on the DPS. Unfortunately, If you get interrupted while casting Polymorph Icon Polymorph, there is nothing you can do because Arcane Mages only have one school of spells. Take advantage of your mobility with Shimmer Icon Shimmer to cast spells. It is important to note that Mages have Spellsteal Icon Spellsteal and can use it to steal HoTs to heal themselves. This is a great spell versus Restoration Druids and Discipline Priests that have multiple spells that you can steal.

Here is a list of the best team compositions for 2v2:

  • Arcane Mage + Assassination Rogue
  • Arcane Mage + Discipline Priest
  • Arcane Mage + Holy Paladin
  • Arcane Mage + Restoration Druid

5.2. 3v3 Arena

Your role in 3v3 is similar to 2v2 Arena. As an Arcane Mage you will be focusing on controlling the enemy team with slows and Polymorph Icon Polymorph. Before your team uses burst cooldowns, make sure there is crowd control on the enemy healer. If you are playing with a Rogue, remember that Polymorph Icon Polymorph shares a diminishing return with Sap Icon Sap and your Polymorph Icon Polymorph will be half duration in the opener. Again, take advantage of Shimmer Icon Shimmer so you can easily get crowd control on the enemy healer or to deal damage without being interrupted. It is important to note that you are not limited to using Polymorph Icon Polymorph on the enemy healer. If an enemy DPS using their burst cooldowns, you can slow/root and Polymorph Icon Polymorph them. This will help your healer significantly.

Here is a list of the best team compositions for 3v3:

  • RMPally(Arcane Mage + Assassination Rogue + Holy Paladin)
  • Arcane Mage + Elemental Shaman + Holy Priest
  • Arcane Mage + Windwalker Monk + Holy Paladin/Restoration Druid
  • Arcane Mage + Destruction Warlock + Holy Paladin

6. Useful Macros for Arcane Mages

Macros are crucial to be successful in PvP. They allow players to use abilities on enemies without having to target them. This helps increase overall damage/healing and general awareness in the arena. Here are a few macros that all Arcane Mages can benefit from.

6.1. Polymorph 123 Macro

  • #showtooltip Polymorph
  • /cast [target=arena1] Polymorph

Using this macro will cast Polymorph Icon Polymorph on arena enemy 1. This makes it easier to crowd control an enemy while staying focused on your target. If you want macros for the second and third enemies, simply change the arena1 to arena2 or arena3.

6.2. Polymorph Focus Macro

  • #showtooltip Polymorph
  • /cast [target=focus] Polymorph

If you find that you do not have much room on your actionbars, you can use a focus macro. This is much simpler to use than the arena123 macro. Put an enemy on focus and this macro will cast Polymorph Icon Polymorph on that player while you are still focused on your target.

6.3. Counterspell Focus Macro

  • #showtooltip Counterspell
  • /cast [target=focus] Counterspell

This macro will use Counterspell Icon Counterspell on whichever enemy you have on focus. Because you will be primarily using Counterspell Icon Counterspell on the enemy healer, you should only need this focus macro.

6.4. Ice Block Macro

  • #showtooltip Ice Block
  • /cast !Ice Block

This makes it so when you use Ice Block Icon Ice Block it will not cancel it if you click it a second time.

7. Gear for Arcane Mages

With regards to gear, the biggest change in Legion is that there is no more PvP gear. Your strength in PvP will be determined based on the average item level of your gear (as displayed on your character sheet). For example, the base item level at level 110 is 800, so your stats in PvP will be adjusted accordingly. For every 10 item levels you gain, your stats are increased by 1%.

The implication is that it does not matter where your gear comes from, and all that matters is its item level. Gear from quests or PvE content is just as good as gear you get as a reward from PvP (which, in fact, will be very similar to PvE gear; there are no more PvP stats on gear).

Practically, you will simply look to collect gear with the highest item levels possible, and the stat distribution on the gear will not matter.

8. Artifact Traits for Arcane Mages

Below, we will explain what the recommended order for artifact traits is, if you wish to maximise your PvP potential. It is quite possible that your artifact path (at the time of reading this guide) differs from our suggestions. If this is the case, do not worry, and use the information below to help you understand your traits and guide your future choices.

If you have suddenly decided that you want to turn to PvP, the best thing to do in your artifact progression is continue to your closest Golden trait, and then follow the recommendations below. Picking up the most useful traits ( Icon Sloooow Down,  Icon Torrential Barrage, Force Barrier Icon Force Barrier, or  Icon Everywhere At Once) along the way is a great way to boost your potential.

8.1. First Golden Trait

The first Golden trait you want to reach is  Icon Rule of Threes.

  1. Take  Icon Might of the Guardians.
  2. Take  Icon Blasting Rod.
  3. Take  Icon Aegwynn's Imperative.
  4. Take  Icon Rule of Threes.

8.2. Second Golden Trait

The second Golden trait to go for is  Icon Arcane Rebound.

  1. Take  Icon Ethereal Sensitivity.
  2. Take  Icon Aegwynn's Wrath.
  3. Take  Icon Arcane Rebound.

8.3. Remaining Traits

After this, you should head for your last Golden trait,  Icon Touch of the Magi, picking up any remaining traits after that. Although there is no specific order to take them in, traits like  Icon Sloooow Down,  Icon Torrential Barrage, and  Icon Everywhere At Once are highly recommended.

9. Relics for Arcane Mages

Relics are disabled in PvP, so they are not a concern to you.

10. ChangeLog

  • 29 May 2018: Added an Arena Compositions section.
  • 22 Mar. 2018: Made several updates to the guide and its structure.
    • Added sections for Macros, Strengths, and Weaknesses.
    • Moved Gear, Artifact Traits, and Relics sections to the end, since they are not that important.
    • Updated recommended Tier 3 honor talent.
  • 24 Jan. 2018: No major changes needed for patch 7.3.5.
  • 05 Dec. 2017: No major changes needed for patch 7.3.2.
    • Updated "About The Author".
    • Replaced unnecessary "Blinks" with "Shimmer".
  • 18 Sep. 2017: Reviewed the guide for Patch 7.3 (no important changes needed)
    • Removed Artifact Trait descriptions.
    • Updated burst damage rotation.
  • 27 Jul. 2017: Updated description for the talent "Shimmer".
  • 12 Jul. 2017: Updated recommendation for Tier 3 and 4 honor talents.
  • 16 Apr. 2017: Guide added.
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