Arcane Mage PvP Guide in Battle for Azeroth (BfA 8.1)

Last updated on Dec 13, 2018 at 13:03 by Mysticall 4 comments

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 Icon 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:

  1. Intellect;
  2. Haste;
  3. Mastery;
  4. Versatility;
  5. 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 Icon Polymorph. Mastery: Savant Icon 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.

  1. Battlefield Precision Icon Battlefield Precision
  2. Galvanizing Spark Icon Galvanizing Spark
  3. Arcane Pummeling Icon Arcane Pummeling
  4. Arcane Pressure Icon Arcane Pressure
  5. Explosive Echo Icon Explosive Echo

If you are playing with a teammate that will struggle to kill an enemy at low health, Arcane Pressure Icon Arcane Pressure is the trait you want to have in all of your Azerite pieces. This turns your Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage into an execute-like ability. Outside of that trait, you can mix and match any of the above traits. Galvanizing Spark Icon Galvanizing Spark and Arcane Pummeling Icon Arcane Pummeling both increase your sustained damage. Explosive Echo Icon Explosive Echo gives your a playstyle of dealing spread pressure to teams that are stacked often. Battlefield Precision Icon 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.

  1. Gutripper Icon Gutripper
  2. Heed My Call Icon Heed My Call
  3. Overwhelming Power Icon Overwhelming Power
  4. Earthlink Icon Earthlink

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 Icon Gutripper, Heed My Call Icon Heed My Call or Overwhelming Power Icon Overwhelming Power. All of these will noticeable increase your damage.

3.3. Inner Ring

Below are the best Inner Ring traits.

  1. Resounding Protection Icon Resounding Protection
  2. Impassive Visage Icon Impassive Visage
  3. Longstrider Icon Longstrider

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 Icon 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 Icon Battlefield Precision trait. You will also want either Overwhelming Power Icon Overwhelming Power or Heed My Call Icon Heed My Call in the second tier.

Below, we list the items that have these traits.

4.1.1. Helms

4.1.2. Shoulders

4.1.3. Chest

4.2. Recommended Items

Dread Gladiator's Badge Icon Dread Gladiator's Badge is strong for the Versatility and the on-use Intellect effect. The 2-minute cooldown lines up well with Arcane Power Icon Arcane Power and should be used every time you want to use your burst rotation.

Dread Gladiator's Insignia Icon Dread 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 Icon 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

Level Choices
15 Amplification Amplification Rule of Threes Rule of Threes Arcane Familiar Arcane Familiar
30 Mana Shield Mana Shield Shimmer Shimmer Slipstream Slipstream
45 Incanter's Flow Incanter's Flow Mirror Image Mirror Image Rune of Power Rune of Power
60 Resonance Resonance Charged Up Charged Up Supernova Supernova
75 Chrono Shift Chrono Shift Ice Ward Ice Ward Ring of Frost Ring of Frost
90 Reverberate Reverberate Touch of the Magi Touch of the Magi Nether Tempest Nether Tempest
100 Overpowered Overpowered Time Anomaly Time Anomaly Arcane Orb 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 Icon 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 Icon Arcane Familiar is the best choice in this tier. This gives you some slight damage, but allows you to use Spellsteal Icon Spellsteal more. It is very effective against healers and teams with very few HoTs or buffs.

5.2. 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.

5.3. 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.

5.4. Tier 4 (Level 60) Talents

Charged Up Icon Charged Up is the best choice in this tier. This increases your burst damage significantly. If you want an additional interrupt effect, Supernova Icon 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 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 Icon 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 Icon 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 Icon 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 Icon Stealth effect.

Against teams that will be stacked often or have pets, Reverberate Icon 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 Icon 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 Icon Gladiator's Medallion, Relentless Icon Relentless, and Adaptation Icon Adaptation. 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.

Mass Invisibility Icon 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 Icon 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 Icon Master of Escape reduces the cooldown of Greater Invisibility Icon Greater Invisibility by 45 seconds. Greater Invisibility Icon 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 Icon Prismatic Cloak reduces magical damage you take by 50% for 2 seconds after you Blink Icon Blink or Shimmer Icon Shimmer. This talent is great against teams with magical spells that deal large amounts of damage. You can replace Master of Escape Icon Master of Escape with this if you are playing against a team with two spell casters on it.

Dampened Magic Icon 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 Icon 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 Icon Master of Escape for Torment the Weak Icon Torment the Weak. This, in combination with abilities like Chrono Shift Icon 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.

7.1. 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 an overall useful passive, especially against teams with multiple stuns.

7.2. Alliance

The Human racial bonus (Every Man for Himself Icon 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 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.

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 Icon Arcane Intellect on your teammates. It can be dispelled by abilities like Purge Icon Purge or Spellsteal Icon 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 Icon Greater Invisibility and open with a Polymorph Icon Polymorph on the enemy healer. If they manage to get behind a pillar, you can Shimmer Icon 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 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.

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.

  1. Start the arena by using Greater Invisibility Icon Greater Invisibility.
  2. Use Mass Invisibility Icon Mass Invisibility. You can 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. Use Spellsteal Icon Spellsteal to steal any important buffs the enemy player has.
  4. If the enemy team is letting you cast, use Arcane Blast Icon Arcane Blast.
  5. 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.

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 Icon Clearcasting and Arcane Charges by using Arcane Explosion Icon Arcane Explosion. Once you reach 4 Arcane Charges, use Arcane Barrage Icon Arcane Barrage. Use Slow Icon Slow and Polymorph Icon Polymorphs to control the enemy team. If you are using Nether Tempest Icon Nether Tempest, make sure to apply it to all enemies (except for enemies you might be crowd controlling). Use Evocation Icon Evocation if you get low on Mana from Spellsteal Icon Spellstealing.

If you get interrupted, make sure to use Frost Nova Icon Frost Nova to root any enemies in melee range.

8.4. 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.

Remove Curse Icon Remove Curse removes all curses from a friendly target. This can remove important debuffs like Hex Icon Hex or Agony Icon Agony.

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 Icon 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 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

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 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

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 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.

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 Icon Polymorph on that player while you are still focused on your target.

10.3. 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.

10.4. 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.

11. Changelog

  • 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.
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