The best laid plans of mice and mages often go awry, and in my case, that means having to spec frost at the utmost insistence of some of my Twitter followers. They felt that the poll put me squarely back into my wheelhouse and that the point of a leveling guide was to learn something new. So here I am, with a loud bubbly friend. Frost has been fun so far and has made killing mobs a lot easier, but I suspect that is how it is now with every mage spec now. Back in my day, you had to wand and pray that you killed something. Now that we’re actually starting to get into the meat of leveling, I figured that I ought to break up the guides into sections for ease-of-use. Hopefully you’ll find this a bit more useful if you just need help with one specific part of leveling in each block.
11 through 20 gives you another block of very important utility and resource skills that as a mage; spells you should become accustomed to using. At level 12, you get Evocation. This is one of a mage’s main abilities to regen mana. If you eventually go on to become a full-time arcane mage, your rotation will basically rise and fall around this. As you gain the ability to use glyphs, Evocation will also be a nice way of regaining health in and out of combat. The only downside to this is that you have to stand still. Ticks of your Evocation will also shorten if you are taking prolonged damage (so try not to use it during an AOE ability from a mob.)
Polymorph is level 14 and is your first real crowd control. While Polymorph does tend to vanish at the drop of a hat if someone even so much as LOOKS at your sheep, it is considered one of the more prized crowd control abilities in that is it easily renewable and has no cooldown. A good mage will master the art of keeping a focus target sheeped and being able to polymorph on the fly and I will give you a great macro for how to do that:
/cast [@focus,exists,harm] Polymorph
This macro does a couple of things right off the bat – first, it stops your cast (meaning you can sheep on the fly if need be), secondly, it sets a focus if one does not exist already, and it casts Polymorph. It is going to set whatever you’re targeting and sheeping as your focus, so keep in mind that if you need to swap your focus/sheep target, you press the macro while holding down your modifer key (in this case is SHIFT). If you want to change your modifer key (to say, ALT or CTRL), you merely change the
[mod:shift] part. I also like to use my macro as a nice “set a focus” button as if you are out of range or a mob cannot be sheeped, it will just simply focus the mob you are targeting, provided it is a harmful entity. If you want to eventually use other spells besides just the flat Polymorph spell (like Polymorph: Black Cat, Polymorph: Pig), you can simply change the last line to this:
/castrandom [@focus,exists,harm] Polymorph, Polymorph(Rabbit), Polymorph(Black Cat)
The only problem you might run into is if you have other spells that work on a focus – such as Counterspell (like in our last guide). What I’ve done is used modifers in all my macros for those spells so in the fairly rare case I need to counterspell a non-focused target, while having a focus target polymorphed, I can shift-Counterspell the non-focus target and still keep my focus target sheeped. Glyphing Polymorph lets you turn your boring old sheep into a penguin or monkey as well, or allows polymorph to remove damage-over-time spells on a mob (a must for dungeons.)
The last utility spell you get is Blink, at level 16. Blink is easily one of the most live-saving spells you will get as a mage. It moves you quickly from place to place, it can get you out of places fast and it can move you over dangers that other classes have to muddle through. If you glyph it, it can even take you greater distances than before and Arcane has a talent that gives you a speed boost when you use it. In short, use it early, use it often, don’t Blink into a fire (as I have done many, many times.) Always have this key bound to something you can hit very easily.
Rounding this all out is Cone of Cold (level 18) and Arcane Blast (level 20.) Cone of Cold is a must-have instant cast melee range slow for Arcane and Frost mages (especially because you can talent it to be more effective), since Fire eventually gets Dragon’s Breath. CoC is good for keeping things that get right up in your face a little slowed so you can Blink back and pop off a well-timed Frostbolt or Arcane Blast.
From 11-20 you receive 6 talent points which means you begin picking talents from the top tier of your given talent tree. I am now frost, so my first six points (past the first one I placed in Early Frost) looks a little something like this: (0/0/6). When starting out on the first tier, or even as you are working down a tree, talents that give you a boost to how much damage you do, or make you cast faster, or give you more secondary stats are good things overall. Early Frost and Piercing Ice are great examples of these. Shatter is a little more obscure but it comes in handy later as you use more abilities that freeze a target and can be very handy when trying to kite a mob. As for fire and arcane mages? Your first seven points should look like this (0/6/0) and (6/0/0). Fire is a little less jazzy in terms of choices from early on; Master of Elements having a flat mana back from critical strikes (which are harder to come by at early gear levels) and Burning Soul giving you extra pushback protection is not very fun. Compared to the haste boosts of Arcane and Frost (Early Frost, Netherwind Presence), as well mana cost reduction (Arcane Concentration) and critical strike boosts (Piercing Ice), it feels a little blah. But never fear, Fire gets some fun toys later on.
A note: most of the builds I will be presenting in the guides tend to be a good balance of solo talents that are great for questing and a little bit for boosting your usefulness in dungeons. If you wish to level straight via dungeons, you might want opt toward builds that you see closer to 85 as they usually provide slightly more group utility and buffs. Most of the “solo” talents as well tend to veer into PVP utility and may not be overall as useful for PVE soloing. Remember that there is some variance in specs when leveling and picking things that you feel help you overall might be good to experiment with. Remember, you can always go back to the trainer and relearn your talents. However, leveling/raiding specs that tend to be given as the “best” are because they are fairly tried-and-true to perform most optimally in most PVE situations.
Obviously this early on, gear will basically be whatever you pick up questing, in dungeons or off mobs. Always prioritize for intellect if you can. If you get some gear that has spirit on it, don’t fret. While spirit does zippo for mages, if it also has intellect on it, it is an upgrade. As more gear becomes diversified for healers versus casters, it’ll be considered better if you let healers in your group roll over you on spirit items, but for now, anything that has more intellect should be something you pick. Intellect and stamina gear is fairly plentiful from quests, however. Secondary stats like haste, crit or hit is very rare at this level, even if you do dungeons. Slots you won’t really see gear for yet is shoulders (besides some white or grey ones), necklaces, head pieces, or trinkets. If you are an alt with heirlooms, this is largely meaningless to you!
>> Levels 20-30