Ahh, mages. Arguably the squishiest class in the game, and yet capable of terrifying power, solid crowd control, and the most powerful burst capability of any class in the arenas.
— Almost all arena mages are specced deep frost (either a 17/044 or 0/0/61 build) due to that specs superior survivability and control to the other specs. This appears to be changing, but for now, frost is still the go-to tree for arena mages.
— Similar to hunters, a mage left without pressure can deal a massive amount of damage very, very quickly, to any class.
— Decent mana longevity, due to Evocate and mana gems.
— Has the longest spell school lockout ability in the game, which just so happens to be off the GCD, instant cast, and ranged. Counterspell is devastating.
— Very strong crowd control, via polymorph and multiple snares/roots. Even a few seconds of successful mage CC can completely turn the tide of a battle.
— Invisibility, as much controversy has surrounded it, is still a very effective tool.
— One of only two classes that can render themselves completely immune to focus fire.
Arena combat as a mage is relies very heavily on correct timing. Timing of crowd control, timing of shatters, timing of this, that, and the other thing. It is entirely possible that being off a few seconds off way or another on a single ability can lose the entire match.
The largest problem mages have is their power while mobile. A mage generally needs to stand still for seconds at a time to mete out their most significant damage. They can still deal decent damage while mobile, and protect themselves very well; but denied the ability to cast frostbolt, a mage’s damage is crippled.
Take into account the dreaded pillar hump as well, and it is entirely possible to prevent a mage from ever being allowed to get a full cast off. A proper shatter combo is a mages most terrifying ability. Timed correctly with other teammates, it is entirely possible to kill a player within a couple seconds, and there is nothing that can be done about it.
Hence, preventing a mage from being able to do what s/he wants to do should be your primary focus. You should, by now, be familiar with how intensely frustrating it is to be constantly pressured, whether it be by a warlock, or a rogue, or another mage.
Again, the majority of mages are specced deep into frost, and thus, have very little push-back protection. By unleashing a flurry of spells when they are attempting to cast frostbolt (or polymorph), you can delay their cast significantly, or force them to abandon the cast entirely. Either way, a large chunk of that mages time has been wasted.
The arcane school is the best choice to Counterspell. Some mages think that frost is the best school, thus preventing some defence abilities and nearly all of their offensive spells, but it’s not a good idea (with one exception).
Arcane holds polymorph, counterspell, blink… see why this is the superior school for a lockout? It prevents the mage from using their own control abilities, and one extremely important escape ability. As well, catching a mage casting polymorph and counterspelling that prevents a crowd control from landing on your team, thus, no trinkets/dispels have to be used to get rid of it (or even worse, actually allow the polymorph to go it’s full duration).
The exception to this is when you’re going for a kill on the mage. In this case, locking out the frost school is your best option. This denies him frost nova, which keeps your melee teammates away, ice barrier which keeps him alive, and ice block, which renders him immune to your efforts.
When going for a kill on a mage, it is important to catch them when ice block is not available. Ice block can be dispelled if you have a priest, but even that slight delay can disrupt your team’s focus fire. If you make a team wide swap to the mage, and the mage simply blocks… fantastic, y’all just blew whatever cooldowns you needed to pull off the swap, to no avail.
Hence, time a kill on the mage to come in the 30 seconds after an ice block has already occurred (hypothermia is one of the most crippling debuffs in the game), or when his frost school is locked out. Similar to a Paladin with his holy school interrupted, he’s really got nothing left.
Spellsteal! Mages currently have zero buff protection; anything on them is fair game. Ice barrier, icy veins, take it all. It’s very easy to strip a mage of any buffs they have; as a class, mages have very few filler buffs. Strip those few off, and then you can steal things like ice barrier and HoT spells at your leisure.
Mage/Rogue versus Mage/Rogue
Ah, a mirror battle at it’s finest. These fights are always intense; after all, any working strategy you come up with they can do just as well. In all honesty, though, this fight comes down to which team is better at killing mages.
Start off by sapping the mage, and opening as hard as you can with shatter (open from Invisibility, if possible). Try to force the mage to ice block before the other rogue even breaks stealth, if possible. Burn the mage as hard as you can while keeping the rogue controlled.
Remember, just like you, they do not have a healer to back them up. If the opportunity comes for a swap to the rogue (i.e. mage runs too far away, your rogue finds their rogue before the fight has even began), do not hesitate to capitalize on that. Without a healer, any damage you can inflict will be near permanent damage.
Once ice block expires, keep the rogue controlled with anything you have, and pin down the mage for the kill. Force him to blink (i.e. to escape from a stun) and then catch him with a root, or vice versa. Try to get him to blow as many defensive cooldowns as possible early, so you can tear him apart quickly once they’re used up.
Tip for Rogues: Open on the mage with Garrote, and build up combo points as fast as possible without using any finishers. The idea is to force the mage to Blink (your mage can toss in a root to help convince the mage that a Blink is necessary). Once the mage blinks, use shadow step, and use Kidney Shot. Hopefully, you have 5 combo points up for a very lengthy stun. This will force the mage to ice block.
Whichever mage ice blocks first is probably on the losing team. Force the ice block, and go from there. Without ice block, the opposing mage is far more vulnerable.
Basically, whichever team/rogue can force the most defensive cooldowns out of the opposing mage, is going to win. Burn the mage down, and it’s an easy win to take out the rogue once he’s alone.
Druid/Mage/Rogue versus Priest/Mage/Rogue
A near even fight that could easily go either way.This will be written assuming you are on the DMR team, facing the PMR team.
With this match up, really any target is a good target. All of them are equally dangerous, and all of them are equally crowd controllable. Both teams are capable of very powerful burst damage, both are capable of very powerful crowd control, and where one team lacks on mana burns and dispels, they make up for it with powerful dispel protection and the sheer utility that comes from employing a druid (bash, feral charge…).
The edge in crowd control goes to the DMR team. Both teams can polymorph and use the full spectrum of rogue control. The priest offers an AoE fear, whereas the druid offers roots, cyclone, feral charge, and bash.
Usually, the mage is your best target to begin with. Put heavy pressure on the mage in an effort to prevent polymorphs and shatters, while keeping the rogue and the priest controlled. At no point in this entire match should the opposing mage be allowed to cast two spells (with a cast time) in a row.
Note: Cyclone and Blind share diminishing returns, as do Roots and the mages Frost Novas.
Tip for Druids: Fake casts often. A mage successfully landing a counterspell on you will usually mean the match is over, and you lost.
More than likely, the other team will come gunning for your mage. One of the hardest things for the druid to do here is to keep the mage up through the massive amount of damage/dispels being slung his way.
Similar to the PMR team, DMR is very adept at swiftly swapping targets. Swaps to the rogue work very well, swaps to the priest… kinda. Chaining polymorph/cyclone on a priest can keep him locked down for a very, very long time.
And, best of all, using cyclone on a rogue that just procced Cheat Death will practically guarantee you the match. Lock down the priest as cyclone ends, and the rogue is finished.
Priests do not make the best swap target in this set up, mainly because they can dispel polymorph from whichever teammate has it. Pressuring the priest hard enough can force healing spells in an effort to stay alive, but most priests will realize that a free teammate of theirs can disrupt your offensive enough that he can heal anyway.
Playing With Mages
Note: Remember, all of your mage control abilities share diminishing returns with each other.
Stacking two identical classes together is usually a horrible idea. In cases where the class has very few CC abilities (i.e. Shaman) it’s not so bad, especially when that team can pull of a hearty zerg and just annihilate the opposing team. Ever gone into an arena, and the other team has 4 shaman on it, and there’s just lightning bolts everywhere? Ever seen three people die almost simultaneously from that?
Because of the amount of control abilities mages have, stacking them together is usually a recipe for disaster. The combo does, however, have one very strong point: dual shatter combos. Both mages simultaneously hit someone with a frostbolt + ice lance, and then again, with the other mages pet nova.
Teams that simply do not know how to react to massive burst (the same teams who get destroyed by stacked shamans, or stacked rogues) will be annihilated in seconds again and again by dual frost mages.
I heartily recommend that if you are relatively knew to the PvP scene, take some time and do arenas with another mage for a while. There is nothing else that will teach you the strengths and weaknesses of your class faster.
Biggest thing to remember: if you are running with two mages, you have practically non existent lasting power. You must end the match very quickly, or you won’t be able to end it at all.
Tip: In mage/mage, start off the match with Invisibility up on either both, or one of you. Again, this can trick the opposing team into thinking they are facing a combo that is completely false. For instance, if they see one mage visible with no extra buffs, it’s completely logical to assume they are facing mage/rogue.
Mage/Mage versus Warrior/Druid
In all fairness, a mage/mage combo will typically destroy a team that has a warrior on it. This does, however, serve as an excellent example of how mage/mage is played.
Mage/mage, as a composition, needs to be played very aggressively. You have no healer, shared diminishing returns, almost no outlasting prowess, and enough burst damage to cause Kalgan’s jaw to drop.
Use this to your advantage. Charge in, elementals frothing (they can’t blaze), pick something, and burn fast and hard. Typically, whatever will be easiest to kill, you kill.
Against warrior/druid, you have two options. Tear into the warrior from the get go, and hope you do enough damage fast enough that the druid cannot recover. This does work against warriors that honestly do not know how to play defensively.
If the warrior comes rushing at you, mace swinging, two mages can kill this warrior in about 3, maybe 4 seconds.
Both mages pop water elementals. Start casting frostbolt at the warrior. Mage one drops his pet nova, warrior is greeted with 2 frostbolts and 2 ice lances while rooted, in addition to the water bolts from the elemental. This can easily be upwards of ten thousand damage, in 4 seconds or less. Toss both fireblasts in here, and more than likely, the warrior is finished.
Note: Nearly all arena warriors these days stack things like strength, attack power, and critical strike rating. Offensive stats. Very, very few bother socketing/enchanting stamina or resilience. This means most PvP warriors are deceptively squishy, at least where mages are concerned.
Warriors who know how to play defensively will swap out for a shield, and pillar hump well enough you’d swear it was a druid in plate. If this is the case, more than likely you will not be able to deal enough damage to the warrior fast enough. No reason not to try; a mages level of control over warriors is the stuff of frustrating legends.
If a target swap is needed to focus down the druid, that’s just fine, so long as you can catch the druid somewhere in the open, somewhere both mages can afford to get off a frostbolt or two. It’s easy enough for two mages to control the warrior, freeing them up to use nearly every available cooldown to attack the druid.
Remember, dual shatters and dual counterspell. Use counterspell to prevent the druid from casting (which should be done if your target is the warrior, too, once the druid is no longer in stealth), while using the elementals ranged nova to drop shatter combos on the druid. He will not have time to shift out of them, and will take truck loads of damage.
However. Al this requires that either the druid or the warrior makes a mistake. The warriors mistake would be in his play style. If he plays aggressively against mage/mage, that is his mistake.
Roughly the same with the druid. The druid needs to be able to get out of LoS with at least one of the mages with a seconds notice to avoid getting Shattered. If the druid leaves himself in the open (i.e. in the center of the Nagrand arena) there is no cover he can easily run to.
Wow, 2400 words and counting. This is my longest one yet. Once again, leave comments, additional strategies, etc.