Arcane Mage PvP Guide in Battle for Azeroth (BfA 8.1)
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to play in a PvP environment. The guide will cover everything from talent choices, PvP talents, 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.
1. Spec Overview / Place in the Current Meta for Arcane Mages
Arcane Mages are the most unique Mage specialization. Unlike the other two specs that focus on consistent damage and crowd control, Arcane has the option to just deal damage. This means you do not need to rely on getting a Polymorph on the enemy healer to get a kill.
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. Stat Priority for Arcane Mages in PvP
The stat priority for Arcane Mage in PvP is as follows:
- Critical Strike.
Intellect is the best stat in all situations. Haste is the best secondary state. This stat will reduce your global cooldown and the cast times of important spells like Polymorph. Mastery: Savant is crucial for your burst and sustained damage output and is also important to have on gear.
3. Azerite Traits for Arcane Mages
Azerite traits are unlocked in you helm, shoulders and chest. With each Azerite level in your neck, you get closer to unlocking the center trait in your gear. These traits vary from increasing damage of certain abilities to helping increase your survivability. Depending on what traits you use, it can completely alter your playstyle and what talents you should be using.
3.1. Outer Ring
Below are the best Outer Ring traits.
- Battlefield Precision/ Battlefield Focus
- Galvanizing Spark
- Arcane Pummeling
- Arcane Pressure
- Explosive Echo
If you are playing with a teammate that will struggle to kill an enemy at low health, Arcane Pressure is the trait you want to have in all of your Azerite pieces. This turns your Arcane Barrage into an execute-like ability. Outside of that trait, you can mix and match any of the above traits. Galvanizing Spark and Arcane Pummeling both increase your sustained damage. Explosive Echo gives your a playstyle of dealing spread pressure to teams that are stacked often. Battlefield Precision applies stacks to your target and increases the damage they take from your team.
3.2. Middle Ring
Below are the best Middle Ring traits.
The middle and inner rings are important for additional damage. All of the traits mentioned above increase your overall damage. However, the primary traits you should be getting are Gutripper, Heed My Call or Overwhelming Power. All of these will noticeable increase your damage.
3.3. Inner Ring
Below are the best Inner Ring traits.
All of these traits give you additional ways of surviving. These are all passive, but are crucial to have.
4. Gear Recommendations
4.1. General Guidelines
In general, Arcane Mages want to get trinkets that line up well with Arcane Power. These trinkets can have a passive or on-use effect. The stat you want to be increasing is Intellect. The reason you want to increase Intellect is because it drastically increases your overall damage output.
To be successful in 3v3 arena, you need to have at least 2 pieces of gear with the Battlefield Precision/ Battlefield Focus trait. You will also want either Overwhelming Power or Heed My Call in the second tier.
Below, we list the items that have these traits.
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Cowl;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Cowl;
- 7th Legionnaire's Hood;
- Honorbound Artificer's Guise.
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Mantle;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Mantle;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Shoulderguards;
- Sinister Gladiator's Silk Shoulderguards;
- Mantle of Contained Corruption.
4.2. Recommended Items
Sinister Gladiator's Maledict is absolutely the best trinket you can have. The on-use damage and healing absorption is capable of forcing defensives by itself. This can be used by itself or while you are using your burst rotation to force multiple cooldowns out of enemy teams.
Sinister Gladiator's Badge is strong due to the Versatility and the on-use Intellect effect. The 2-minute cooldown lines up well with Arcane Power and should be used every time you want to use your burst rotation.
Sinister Gladiator's Insignia has a good amount of Versatility on it and has a passive effect. This effect increases your Intellect. This increases your sustained damage.
4.3. Weapon Enchant
Enchant Weapon - Torrent of Elements is the best weapon enchants. The enchant provides a proc that gives you a strong boost to your spell damage. This increases your sustained and burst damage.
5. Regular Talents for Arcane Mages
|15||✔ Amplification||✘ Rule of Threes||✘ Arcane Familiar|
|30||✘ Mana Shield||✔ Shimmer||✘ Slipstream|
|45||✔ Incanter's Flow||✘ Mirror Image||✘ Rune of Power|
|60||✘ Resonance||✔ Charged Up||✔ Supernova|
|75||✔ Chrono Shift||✘ Ice Ward||✔ Ring of Frost|
|90||✔ Reverberate||✘ Touch of the Magi||✔ Nether Tempest|
|100||✘ Overpowered||✘ Time Anomaly||✔ Arcane Orb|
While the above table provides a generally accurate overview of the viability of talents, some finer points are discussed in the sections that follow, and we recommend you read those for a deeper understanding.
5.1. Tier 1 (Level 15) Talents
Amplification is the best choice in this tier, and it will help with your overall damage. However, if you are willing to give up damage for additional Mana, Arcane Familiar is the best choice in this tier. This gives you some slight damage, but allows you to use Spellsteal more. It is very effective against healers and teams with very few HoTs or buffs.
5.2. Tier 2 (Level 30) Talents
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, for example, you can Shimmer while casting it and avoid losing line of sight. This talent replaces Blink.
5.3. Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents
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.
5.4. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents
Charged Up is the best choice in this tier. This increases your burst damage significantly. If you want an additional interrupt effect, Supernova can be used instead. You will have less on-demand burst damage, but you will have an extra interrupt for healers or against DPS classes with spells that have long cast times.
5.5. Tier 5 (Level 75) Talents
When playing against a Restoration Druid, 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.
Against any other healer, Chrono Shift is the best choice in this tier. This talent will help you kite away from teams much easier, making it harder for them to kill you.
5.6. Tier 6 (Level 90) Talents
If you are playing 2v2 arena or playing 3v3 against a team that will not be stacked often, Nether Tempest is the best choice in the tier. Although Nether Tempest's damage is a bit low, it does give you a small amount of spread damage. It is also useful versus teams with a class that has a Stealth effect.
Against teams that will be stacked often or have pets, Reverberate is the best choice in this tier. This has the potential to increase your sustained and burst damage.
5.7. Tier 7 (Level 100) Talents
Arcane Orb is the best choice in this tier. This talent will give you even more consistent damage while giving you more Arcane Charges.
6. PvP Talents for Arcane Mages
The first PvP talent tier is will give you a choice between Gladiator's Medallion, Relentless, and Adaptation. If you are an Orc, 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 is the best choice in this tier. This will help with getting out of stuns that you might be stuck in.
Mass Invisibility makes you and your allies within 40 yards invisible for 5 seconds. Dealing damage will cancel this effect. This is a very strong PvP talent against every team. Using this talent guarantees crowd control on enemy healers before using your burst damage. It can also help your teammates if they are being focus or to avoid incoming crowd control.
Temporal Shield creates a shield around you for 6 seconds. Once it expires, you will instantly be healed for 100% of the damage you took while it was active. This is a great defensive tool and should be used when the enemy team is using their burst cooldowns.
Master of Escape reduces the cooldown of Greater Invisibility by 45 seconds. Greater Invisibility reduces damage you take by 60% when Invisible and 3 seconds after reappearing. So this will allow you to have an additional defensive on a relatively short cooldown.
Prismatic Cloak reduces magical damage you take by 50% for 2 seconds after you Blink or Shimmer. This talent is great against teams with magical spells that deal large amounts of damage. You can replace Master of Escape with this if you are playing against a team with two spell casters on it.
Dampened Magic reduces magical damage over time effects on you by 20%. This is a great talent against classes like Shadow Priest and Affliction Warlock. You can replace Master of Escape with this talent.
If you want to play extremely defensive against a team with two melee on it, you can swap Master of Escape for Torment the Weak. This, in combination with abilities like Chrono Shift, will make it very difficult for melee to catch you.
7. Racial Bonuses for Arcane Mages
Racial bonuses can provide interesting PvP benefits. Here are the best races to choose for each faction.
The abilities gained from the Orc Race ( Berserking and Hardiness) both greatly benefit an Arcane Mage. Berserking will help when using offensive cooldowns to get more damage output; Hardiness is an overall useful passive, especially against teams with multiple stuns.
The Human racial bonus ( Every Man for Himself) is a great way to get out of stuns.
8. 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, 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.
8.1. Before Gates Open
Be prepared to be the focus of many teams. This can be frustrating and make people shy away from Arcane. That said, Arcane Mages have a lot of utility to get away from enemy teams, so make sure to use this to your advantage. Make sure to use Arcane Intellect on your teammates. It can be dispelled by abilities like Purge or Spellsteal, so be prepared to apply it often.
8.2. 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.
If you want to guarantee crowd control in the opener, you can use Greater Invisibility and open with a Polymorph on the enemy healer. If they manage to get behind a pillar, you can Shimmer to their location and still get your Polymorph off.
8.3. 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 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.
8.3.1. 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.
- Start the arena by using Greater Invisibility.
- Use Mass Invisibility. You can use Shimmer while this ability is active. This will guarantee a Polymorph or Ring of Frost on the enemy healer (if you are focusing the enemy healer, Polymorph a DPS that can heal/peel for the healer).
- Use Spellsteal to steal any important buffs the enemy player has.
- If the enemy team is letting you cast, use Arcane Blast.
- When the healer is in crowd control, use your burst rotation.
8.3.2. 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.
- Cast Arcane Power.
- Cast Blood Fury (if you are an Orc).
- Use Presence of Mind.
- Use Arcane Blast.
- Use Arcane Blast.
- Use Arcane Barrage.
- Use Charged Up.
- Use Arcane Barrage.
- Cast Arcane Orb.
- Use Arcane Barrage.
- Cast Arcane Explosion to generate Arcane Charges and Clearcasting.
- Use Arcane Barrage if you have 4 stacks of Arcane Charges.
- Use Arcane Missiles if you get a Clearcasting proc.
- Make sure to interrupt the enemy healer with Supernova if you are using this talent.
8.3.3. 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 Clearcasting and Arcane Charges by using Arcane Explosion. Once you reach 4 Arcane Charges, use Arcane Barrage. Use Slow and Polymorphs to control the enemy team. If you are using Nether Tempest, make sure to apply it to all enemies (except for enemies you might be crowd controlling). Use Evocation if you get low on Mana from Spellstealing.
If you get interrupted, make sure to use Frost Nova to root any enemies in melee range.
8.4. Defensive Techniques
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.
9. 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, almost unmatched mobility, and strong crowd control, Arcane Mages want to stay aggressive and control the enemy team.
9.1. 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 on the healer and use your burst rotation on the DPS. Unfortunately, If you get interrupted while casting Polymorph, there is nothing you can do because Arcane Mages only have one school of spells. Take advantage of your mobility with Shimmer to cast spells. It is important to note that Mages have 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
9.2. 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. 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 shares a diminishing return with Sap and your Polymorph will be half duration in the opener. Again, take advantage of 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 on the enemy healer. If an enemy DPS using their burst cooldowns, you can slow/root and 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
10. 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.
10.1. Polymorph 123 Macro
- #showtooltip Polymorph
- /cast [target=arena1] Polymorph
Using this macro will cast 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.
10.2. 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 on that player while you are still focused on your target.
10.3. Counterspell Focus Macro
- #showtooltip Counterspell
- /cast [target=focus] Counterspell
10.4. Ice Block Macro
- #showtooltip Ice Block
- /cast !Ice Block
This makes it so when you use Ice Block it will not cancel it if you click it a second time.
- 27 Jan. 2019: Updated Gear Recommendations section and Item Recommendations.
- 13 Dec. 2018: Updated Azerite traits section.
- 12 Dec. 2018: No major changes needed for Patch 8.1.
- 19 Nov. 2018: Added Gear Recommendations section.
- 08 Oct. 2018: Added talent table and updated recommended tier 2 regular talent.
- 02 Oct. 2018: Revamped guide.
- Removed Artifact Traits, Relics, PvP Gear and War Mode sections.
- Added Stat Priority and Azerite trait sections.
- 27 Aug. 2018: Updated Air Drops section.
- 24 Jul. 2018: Made many updates to the guide.
- Updated Introduction and spec overview.
- Added War Mode sections.
- Updated all talent sections.
- Added PvP talents and gear sections for the new BfA system.
- Updated Racial Bonuses section.
- Updated Burst and Sustained Damage sections.
- Updated Artifact Traits and Relics sections.
- 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.
- Wintergrasp 8.1.5 PTR Testing: February 19th
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