57/3/11 is, by far, the favored spec for arcane mages. There are some variations in the arcane tree, based on personal style and taste.
Where those final points are spent vary from mage to mage and what they deem to be the best options for themselves. Ones concerned about pushback invest in Arcane Stability, ones that cannot depend on a slow from a tank pick up Slow, some pick up Magic Attunement for the extra range, some fill out Student of the Mind…
You get the idea.
AB – Arcane Blast, your bread and butter nuke.
ABarr – Arcane Barrage, the end tree talent.
AM – Arcane Missiles, Captain Pew Pew himself.
AP – Arcane Power, a talented cooldown vastly increasing your damage dealt in exchange for a higher mana cost.
IV – Icy Veins.
MB – Missile Barrage, a talented proc that greatly reduces the cast time of AM.
MBAM – An Arcane Missiles casted under the effects of Missile Barrage.
PoM – Presence of Mind, a talented cooldown allowing you to make your next spell instant.
Arcane mages do have a proper spell rotation, but it does depend on and vary depending on external factors and the amount of mana (potential and actual) you have.
Arcane is a unique mage tree in that it can control it’s DPS actively, from second to second. It can produce more DPS at the cost of using up more mana faster, or slow down on DPS to conserve mana.
This happens via a “combo point” mechanic. When you cast Arcane Blast, you receive a buff that increases the damage of your next arcane spell. The cost of your next AB also increases (AB does not consume the buff).
This effect stacks up to three times, at which point AB costs a small fortune to cast and your next arcane spell is going to hit really damn hard.
An arcane mage uses three different spells in these rotations: Arcane Blast, Arcane Barrage, and Arcane Missiles.
Generally speaking, you are always going to want to use AM as your finisher, even if Missile Barrage didn’t proc. Arcane Barrage is simply the inferior spell to cast.
Exceptions to this are as follows:
1. If you are using Arcane Power. AM takes too long to cast if you do not have a MB proc to hasten it, wasting a great deal of AP’s benefit. Using ABarr will allow you to get back to more AB’s, dealing more damage in the long run (and hopefully proccing MB this time.)
2. If you are running low on mana. ABarr is far cheaper than AM, and will save you mana in the short term. (Long term, casting AM is actually the cheaper way to go, as it takes longer to cast. The mana cost is therefore spread out, and it also greatly reduces the number of AB’s you cast.)
3. If you are in a highly mobile fight. You cannot move while casting AM, and without a MB proc, it’s going to take you a very long time indeed to fully channel it. If you only get one or two ticks off, you’ve just cost yourself a lot of mana and DPS for no gain.
There are three rotations that arcane can take advantage of:
AB, finisher (either AM or ABarr)
AB twice, finisher
AB thrice, finisher
AB four times, finisher
The more AB’s you cast before using a finisher, the more mana you will spend, the higher DPS you will put out.
Arcane excels at short fights, due to it’s ability to turn massive amounts of mana into massive amounts of damage as fast as the GCD will allow. It is also highly effective at rapidly switching targets.
Arcane is the most powerful spec when it comes to killing off trash. No other spec can swap targets so swiftly and still deal their highest damage potential, no other can so utterly destroy AoE packs.
When fighting trash mobs, use ABarr more often than AM. Both have a travel time, but AM is a slow channel spell whereas ABarr is instant. It’s a very distinct possibility that a trash mob will die before AM has had a chance to unload more than a tick or two of damage.
ABarr will get the damage to the mob much faster.
You can utilize Fireblast as well for instant damage. While you are not a fire mage, Spell Impact and Incineration both boost the damage the spell does.
For AoE, arcane should also use Blizzard. Some arcane specs do take Ice Shards, which stacks with Spell Power giving Blizzard very heavy crits. Arcane can also use their cooldowns to deal ungodly amounts of AoE damage very quickly.
Arcane power + Icy Veins + Blizzard = Numerous and huge yellow numbers.
Managing your cooldowns effectively is the difference between a poor arcane mage and a rockin’ the damage meters arcane mage.
As mentioned earlier, Arcane can throttle it’s DPS based on how much mana it has. Due to the tree’s ability to get Evocate down to a 2 minute cooldown, arcane specs can work with a whole new category of “potential” mana.
All specs can use Evocate, all specs have that extra 60% of their total mana bar to work with, difference is Arcane can use that Evocate extremely often to give the mage ridiculously huge effective mana pools.
For instance, if you have Evocation ready to go, you can happily burn your own mana down to, say, 30%. Drop into a maximum mana rotation, blow AP… and when you hit 30% mana or so, just Evocate, and now you have a nearly full mana bar.
And you can do that every 120 seconds.
Arcane depends very heavily on Evocate. You can recover from missing a tick or two, but your DPS will be much lower than it could have been. It is absolutely imperative that you get every tick from Evocate.
Learn the fights you are going into. Find out when there’s a good phase for you to get off a full Evocate, some lull when you won’t be interrupted by something. Save Evocates for then, and plan your mana consumption around it.
For instance, if there isn’t a safe spot to Evocate for the first three minutes of the fight, then you have to make your current mana pool last that long.
If there aren’t going to be any interruptions for the first 60 seconds, and then nigh impossible from then on out, spend as much mana as you can up front. Evocate before the 60 second mark, and head into the next phase with a full mana bar.
A trick you can use with Evocate is by stacking it with Icy Veins. If there is no risk of you being hit with random damage, start Evocate during the very last second of IV. The 20% haste boost from IV will count for the entire channel, allowing you to get back to DPS faster.
If there is a risk of random AoE, make sure that Evocate’s entire channel will go off during IV. This does mean you won’t get as much damage out of Icy Veins, but the trade-off to having an uninterruptable Evocate is more than worth it.
Make sure you stack AP with as many things as possible. It’s a flat 20% boost to your damage, stack it with everything else you’ve got. Trinkets, Bloodlust, IV, anything and everything. If you have 2pT7, make sure you use your mana gem to get the extra spellpower… and so forth.
AP is not a cooldown you want to use by itself.
Your use of PoM is largely irrelevant. Generally speaking, use it when your cast times are relatively long (when you are not affected by IV) or when you can best take advantage of the extra crit (the third AB in an ABx3 rotation). Use it for instant polymorphs if you want.
There are only three acceptable glyphs for arcane mages: Arcane Blast, Arcane Missiles, and Molten Armor. These are, unquestionably, the best. There are other glyphs that are good, just not as good as these.
And yes, you should be using Molten Armor. All raiding mages should. The DPS you get from Molten Armor is superior to using Mage Armor in every situation.
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