Leveling as a Mage – Levels 11-20

Leichi and her monk friend run across the Barrens.

It’s really unusual that, even without heirlooms, I can break 100 DPS no sweat. Back in my day, 300 DPS at level 60 was “doing really well.” 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 your second specialization-only spell (Arcane Barrage/Fireball/Frostbolt). Fireball and Frostbolt are your main “nuke” spells in that they are what you will be casting a good majority of the time. They are a decent chunk of your damage.

Arcane Barrage however is slightly different. Arcane Blast is the main nuke for Arcane spec, and Barrage is our secondary – how it works is that it clears all your current Arcane Charges, but each charge you have when you cast it increases the damage it does, as well as hit the same number of mobs in a small radius. So, for example, if you use Barrage when you have 4 charges, it will hit 4 targets around whatever you are casting at currently (if there are that many mobs) for 50 percent of the damage your Barrage hit for. It’s a very nice brainless way to do AOE damage at early levels.

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:

/clearfocus [mod:shift]
/focus [@focus,noexists]
/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 modifier key (in this case is SHIFT). If you want to change your modifier 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 something like 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.)

Level 16 isn’t a spell but rather a passive effect called Shatter. Shatter used to be a talent as part of the Frost talent tree but instead is now something all mages get by default. What it does is double the critical strike chance of all your spells against frozen targets. Now, what freezes targets? Frost Nova, Deep Freeze (basically any spells that root with an icy graphic) do this. This means even if you aren’t specifically a Frost Mage, Frost Nova is a useful utility for the root as well as the damage, especially if you are out questing by yourself. However, rooting mobs while doing a dungeon might not endear you well to tanks.

One of the key perks of being a mage comes at level 17: Teleport. This is a slide-out panel spell icon (see screenshot) that you can stick on your bars and clicking on it allows you to access every teleport spell you have learned. All mages get one “free” teleport to their home city (my pandaren mage got Orgrimmar) and to learn the rest of the cities for your faction, you will need to visit a Portal Trainer in any of the capital cities. You will learn at least one teleport spell per expansion, so keep visiting periodically to get new ones.

Finally at level 18, you learn Arcane Explosion. This is one of the only AOE spells you have this early. For Arcane mages, it has the additional benefit of generating Arcane Charges, meaning AOEing doesn’t damage your DPS as much. However, much like Frost Nova, this spell requires you to be in melee range of mobs to use it effectively. This can be particularly dangerous, so use with caution. Also, jumping while using this spell increases its damage.**


Blizzard revamped their talent system heavily – instead of there being clear “talent builds” that required many talent points and had a lot of bloat, there is now a very elegant 6 talent system. You are given 3 talents per “tier” and can only choose one of them. However, using reagents, you can swap them on the fly if you want. This means that as you change activities, say like dungeons or battlegrounds, you can swap talents around that fit your playstyle best. Your first talent choice comes at level 15, so let’s look at the “Casting while Moving” tier:


  • Presence of Mind - I chose this because I used to use it as a cooldown when I played Arcane in Firelands. I use it for my second-to-last Arcane Blast stack to build up my charges, or to cast Arcane Blast on the run.
  • Scorch - This is a short cast-time fire spell that can be used while moving. It is really good for activity that requires a lot of movement since you can keep Scorching as long as you want.
  • Ice Floes - This has similar feel to the other two talents. It allows you to cast it and then cast any two spells that have less than 4 second cast-time be cast on the move. You can use it even when you’re already casting something so this means you can use it whenever you want, especially if you weren’t expecting to have to move.

None of these are “tied” to a spec, like any of the other talents, and should be chosen for what works best. Experiment!

Leichi picks out some new gear.

I want this one!


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 nothing 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!

At level 20, you get a class quest (Horde/Alliance) that takes you to Shadowfang Keep and gets you an awesome staff. Do this if you can!

Helpful Tips:

  1. If you want to swap any of your talents, make sure you have Vanishing Powder (this will change at later levels.) You can buy Vanishing Powder from most reagent vendors!
  2. At level 15, you can now use the Looking for Group tool to queue up for a specific or random dungeon that is appropriate for your level.
  3. Past level 15, your accelerated mana and health regeneration is turned off, so you will have to start paying attention to your HP and mana pool!

Leichi drives through Orgrimmar on her goblin trike.

**Arcane explosion used to do damage to any mobs in the radius of the spell but would “drift” if the mage moved locations rapidly, hence jumping would increase the range your Arcane Explosion would hit in. They fixed this a long time ago, but it is still fun to jump.

6 Responses

  1. I really like how this series is going. I know we’ve joked about our various cross-rivalry alts in game, but I’m honestly enjoying reading about how Mages develop over the levels as I haven’t been able to reconnect with my neglected alt. This lets me virtually level her again and learn the class anew.


    • Thank you for the praise! I was worried that people might not like this guide as much as they liked the old Misandry one since Leichi doesn’t quite have the flair of my Forsaken, but I’m hoping it is still helpful to a lot of people. :)

    • Oh my goodness! Thank you sooo much for this! It is really helping me! I am a 49 level female Panda mage, and still, sooo confused! I was wondering why the gear, cloth, seems so boring and not very useful…Am I missing something? Also, is it true that the turtle is the only mount I have until level 90? I see an image of a hot little panda on a motorcycle.

      I love dungeons but I am still on a big leaning curve with all my abilities and weapons. So, this has been so helpful! Thank you again!


  2. Pingback: Leveling as a Mage – Levels 1-10 | Apple Cider Mage

  3. Pingback: Leveling as a Mage – Levels 21-30 | Apple Cider Mage

  4. Pingback: Leveling as a Mage — Levels 31-40 | Apple Cider Mage

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