Leveling as a Mage — Levels 31-40

Leichi floats in Maraudon.

 

Spells

Welcome to the 30-40 bracket, where all the mage spells you start to get tend to be less about your primary use nukes and cooldowns, but rather what I like to call “quality of life” spells. Things that make your time spent as a mage relaxing, enjoyable and frankly, kick ass over other classes. You got a taste of this when you got your Teleport spells last bracket, but now that you’ve come this far, prepare for the magical equivalent of riding around in a Bentley, waving over your shoulder at the warlocks and rogues crying on the side of the road. (Okay, maybe not like that, but come on, we’re pretty awesome.)

At 32 you get Slow Fall, which may seem like an unusual and frankly unnecessary spell, but as any veteran mage can tell you, will literally save your life. If you are a mage that spends any amount of time exploring the world or going into battlegrounds, the ability to descend gracefully and not hit the ground with a caster-shaped crater (preferably while popping off several instant cast spells) is beyond useful. Slow Fall does just that – it slows your falling speed. You float off at a diagonal towards the ground until you land on something solid. This spell can be cast on other party members or yourself, as well as used while mounted. Just make sure you are targeting the right person.

Molten Armor (level 34)  is the first time in leveling that you get one of your class-specific armors.  Much like a warlock’s armor or a paladin’s aura, an armor defines certain benefits and defenses. Molten Armor grants you extra critical strike chance and reduces your chance to be hit. Fire mages will value this more than arcane mages later on in the game, but for right now it is your only armor and you should wear it!

At level 36 you get your third installment of spec-specific spells. Arcane gets Slow. This is one of the spec’s few CC-like abilities. It slows one target’s movement by 50% (25% if it is against another player) and their casting speed by 25%. Now, if you use Glyph of Slow, all of your Arcane Blasts apply the Slow effect and you don’t need to cast it separately. But it might still be useful for having on your bars if you do any soloing or PVP.

Fire gets Critical Mass, which is a passive effect that multiplies the critical strike chance of your main Fire-specific spells. It’s one of the indications that Fire prefers crit overall as a stat. Your fire spells will start to rely pretty heavily on crit at the endgame to do respectable damage.

Icy Veins is what Frost gets, which is one of your major cooldowns. It is a 20% increase in spell haste and reduces pushback to your spells by 100%. This is like a little Time Warp all for yourself and should be used often, particularly during big fights.

Now for the moment I’m sure you’ve been waiting for – the ability to conjure food. That’s right, at level 38, you gain Conjure Refreshment. This is your ticket to reducing incoming costs for your budget and never needing to grocery shop ever again. Granted, conjured food is slightly behind the best available food for your level but if you forget to buy things like I do, it will work in a pinch. As well as being good for returning mana and health, this food turns into a new kind of sweet treat as you level up. (Right now, your conjured food is cookies! Yum!) Other players will love your food too – so much in fact that they will ask you for it four pulls into a dungeon. *facepalm*

 

Leichi picks out some new gear.

I want this one!

Gear

Matching colors and items! How novel! That is what you can expect during this portion of leveling – many quests in zones help itemize you sensibly as well and look snappy.  You’ll starting seeing more choices in head-gear as well as all your slots. Darkcleric’s Veil/Veil of Aerie Peak is a great blue quest reward from a quest in the Hinterlands (and it looks like a face mask, so cool.) Whitemane’s Embroidered Chapeau is also a classy choice for a head slot!

The only problems I really ran into with gear in this bracket was between some overlapping quest items or slots covered by dungeon drops having wildly different stat allocations. One example of this was two questions offering me two belt choices – one had +11 INT, one had +8 STA, +4 INT, and gave me a bunch of hit. Which seems like the better choice? Lots of intellect is great, but so is hit? This sort of stuff can get really confusing. Typically, even though HIT is my best stat for not missing on mobs, more INT should win out. It just is a flat DPS boost no matter how you slice it. A good way of determining which piece of gear is better when it has identical kinds of stats on it is which has more if you added all the “numbers” up. Hit is better than crit, haste is better than crit in a lot of ways.

Still, 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/stamina gear is fairly plentiful from quests, however. Secondary stats like haste are starting to become more plentiful, especially if you do dungeons. Now that you might be seeing this, let’s explain what haste actually does.

Haste is what speeds up your casting. It sounds simple but it can mean a few things – casting faster means technically more DPS. It also means you run out of mana faster, as you have less time to regen while casting. It also can speed up ticks of some DoTs and reduce your global cooldown by a small margin. Haste also only goes so far, especially when you get to the level where Heroism/Time Warp/Bloodlust is concerned. You can only speed up your casts down to 1 second. Under one second and you will be effectively locked out by the global cooldown between all your spells. That is what most casters that are working around a lot of the time when they talk about racials, cooldowns in regards to a “haste cap.” Early haste gains in leveling tend to be talented or profession cooldowns like Lifeblood.

Helpful Tips:

  1. Making food for healers in low-level dungeons or in battlegrounds now is considered polite and generous
  2. Slow Fall, Blinking as well as Ice Block can save your butt if you jump or fall off something high.
  3. At level 40, you can buy your 100% speed ground mount training.

Leveling as a Mage – Levels 21-30

Leichi casts Arcane Blast in Stranglethorn Vale.

This part of the leveling experience starts to dissolve into a series of choices. Do you want to level via quests? What zone? Do you want to do dungeons straight to 60? The same goes for what kinds of things you are doing as a mage. You are learning about not just the basics, but filling out what will be the heart of your rotation at this point.

Spells

You get five spells from levels 21-30 and a lot of their usefulness to you depends on what spec you decide on playing. This is also the point where you gain enough spells to start the basics of a rotation for every spec. At level 22, you gain Ice Lance. This is a low-mana instant cast frost spell, so you can cast it on the move. This spell becomes a lot more powerful/useful for frost mages at level 24, when all mages gain another set of speciality-based spells or effects.

This is what the Fingers of Frost proc looks like. Its second charge appears on the right.

This is what the Fingers of Frost proc looks like. Its second charge appears on the right.

Frost mages get Fingers of Frost, which is a proc off some of your spells (Frostbolt, Frostfire Bolt, Frost Orb, Blizzard or Scorch) that lets you use Deep Freeze (which you will get later) or Ice Lance as if it were frozen. Ice Lance does extra damage because of this. Fingers of Frost can also go up to 2 charges.

This is what two charges of Arcane Missiles looks like.

This is what two charges of Arcane Missiles looks like.

 Arcane mages get Arcane Missiles. Arcane Missiles have a chance to proc off any damaging spell you cast and can go up to 2 charges. It costs no mana and does more damage depending on how many Arcane Charges you currently have. They are a channeled spell, as well.

Heating Up and then Pyroblast! proc on right.

Heating Up and then Pyroblast! proc on right.

Finally, fire mages get a spell called Inferno Blast. This spell replaces Fire Blast for mages and does a couple of different things:

  • It has a 100% to crit.
  • Because of this, you should be using it to force your Heating Up proc (one crit) to become “Pyroblast!” (two consecutive crits also known as an instant no-mana Pyroblast)
  • It spreads all your DoTs to two other targets in 10 yards of the one you are currently targeting – Combustion, Living Bomb, Pyroblast, and Ignite.
  • It explodes all other “bomb” effects – Nether Tempest and Frost Bomb (which are talents you can choose later.)

 

Level 26 is Ice Block. This is a very important defensive ability – Ice Block is classed as an immunity, which is why it is so powerful. It doesn’t absorb damage, but it keeps you from being harmed by it. This means that you can use it for things like saving yourself from falling damage ([Going Down] is a breeze!) and keeping yourself alive during a high damage fight in case a healer dies or you are somewhere you shouldn’t be. It can also be used in a pinch to keep an aggroed mob off of you (if Invisibility is on cooldown) or even to break a fear. However, if you want to do fancy things like that, you have to be able to pop it on and off quickly. Make sure to have this keybound somewhere easy to reach. What this is does is a) allow you to break your cast to pop your Ice Block,  meaning you can have a nice hair-trigger cooldown at use  and b) tapping your Ice Block macro button a second time cancels the spells so you can use it for part of its duration instead of full. It gives you a lot more control over your block and the situation at hand.

Wrapping up spells at level 28 and 29 are Cone of Cold and Remove Curse. Remove Curse is still an important cleanse spell that mages should learn how to use to save healer’s mana as well as yourself. If you do not use an add-on to handle it (like Decursive) here is a quick mouseover macro that allows you to simply mouse-over and hit your hotkey:

/use [@mouseover,help][@target,help][@player]Remove Curse

What this does is: cleanse your mouseover, and if you aren’t moused over anyone, will cleanse a target if you have one, and failing either of those, cleanse yourself of a curse. Getting good at this will make you indispensable in raids and PVP. At this point, most specs now have a skeleton of a rotation, as well as utility. You have your primary nuke (Arcane Blast, Fireball, Frostbolt), secondary spells (Arcane Missiles, Frostfire Bolt, Pyroblast), and instant-cast fillers (Arcane Barrage, Inferno Blast, Ice Lance). You also have a couple AOE spells (Arcane Explosion, Blizzard) and a couple of utility spells and defensive cooldowns. This is the beginning of your actual life as a DPSer. Your basic rotations should look like:

  • Arcane – Arcane Blast, use Arcane Missile procs for mana regen and to complete your stack of Arcane Charges, clear your charges with Arcane Barrage when full (or to AOE). Arcane Explosion if you have lots of low health mobs. Use tier 1 movement talents or Fire Blast when on the move.
  • Fire – Fireball is your main spell, if you get a Heating Up proc, use Inferno Blast to force a Pyroblast proc. Use Pyroblast with procs. Use movement talent (preferred is Scorch) when on the go.
  • Frost – Use Frostbolt as your nuke, and cast Ice Lance on Fingers of Frost procs. Use your movement talent and Ice Lance when moving.

Talents

Tier 2 talents: Temporal Shield, Blazing Speed, and Ice Barrier

Level 30 gives us another talent choice and this tier is the “Survival Tier.”

  • Temporal Shield – This is a shield that you can cast at any time (even while stunned, etc) and lasts for 4 seconds. Anything damage gets healed back over 6 seconds after the shield effect fades. This is a good talent for when you know you will be taking a large amount of damage at a particular time.
  • Blazing Speed – After taking a melee or spell hit, you can use this spell and give yourself a huge speed boost (preferably away from your attacker) and negate any slowing effects on you as well.
  • Ice Barrier – I took this because at low-levels, this is a very beefy damage reduction shield. It’s not very complex but I don’t need complexity. It lasts for a 1 minute if damage does not break it. Very simple and effective.

Glyphs (New!)

At level 25, you gain your first of three major and minor glyph slots. The idea between each kind of glyph slot is that they focus on giving certain kinds of spells a little extra usefulness or flavor.  Major Glyphs tend to play around with a lot of secondary spells or cooldowns, giving you a little more width of choice here depending on what kind of play you want to do. Lastly, Minor Glyphs are strictly for fun/flavor or adding bonuses to quality of life spells. There’s not many of them, so it makes choosing them a lot more for “fun.”

What should you be picking for your first glyphs? It is difficult at level 25 since many of the abilities you would be augmenting with a glyph aren’t available to you yet. For sheer usefulness, I picked Glyph of Evocation as my first glyph, so that when I got Evocation, I could use it as a healing cooldown. It is also part of Arcane’s rotation later on. As a fun minor glyph, I picked Glyph of Illusion. To use a glyph, click on the item in your bags. Then press “N” to open up your talents and glyphs panel (if you have not re-bound it, otherwise use the panel on your UI), and apply the glyph from your list to the circle slots.

Note: I am aware that glyphs, even ones for basic abilities, can be very expensive on some servers. As you are leveling, it is not as big of deal as it might seem if you don’t have glyphs right away. If you are short on cash, perhaps buy or gather some herbs and parchment and find a helpful guildie or person on your server to make it for you. Otherwise, you can wait until later to try and buy the glyphs you need. Don’t fret if you don’t have the big money in-game just quite yet. Save it for things like a mount!

Leichi picks out some new gear.

I want this one!

Gear

Gear, especially from dungeons and their requisite quests are plentiful now. Slots you won’t really see gear for  yet is most head pieces or trinkets. If you are an alt with heirlooms, this is largely meaningless to you! Snagging a cheap Mage deck off the auction house will net you Darkmoon Necklace from the quest. Amulet of the Moon isn’t amazing but it is cheap to make if you are a Jewelcrafter or have a JCer friend and it has INT on it.  Reinforced Woolen Shoulders are good for low-level tailors, but if you are doing dungeons, decent shoulders don’t really show up until 30 or so outside of drops. Also absent are hats, rings and definitely trinkets.

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/stamina gear is fairly plentiful from quests, however. Secondary stats like haste are rarer at this level, even if you do dungeons. However, due to Blizzard re-itemizing a lot of  lower-level gear you should be seeing more gear with hit and crit. Now that you are actually receiving gear that may have those stats on it, why don’t we talk about why they are good for you.

Character sheet, looking at hit percentages.

Hit is easily the second stat behind Intellect, especially at later levels when you will be constantly fighting mobs that are higher level than you in dungeons. What hit does is determine how much you will miss hitting a mob with spells. The way this stat works, is that it scales down depending on the difference between  you and the mobs level. If you look at your character sheet, you will notice things like this: A baddie that is 3 levels higher than you or is “boss level” will require a lot more hit on your gear to cast spells at them reliably. I’m sure you’ve seen a spell miss before – if you run a combat text add-on or use the in-game scrolling combat text, you’ll sometimes see “MISS!” next to the spell icon. That means that math that goes on behind the scenes determined that your spell didn’t actually hit the mob in that encounter. Hit is not as crucial now if you’re questing or doing level-appropriate dungeons/PVP, as most of those mobs will be within 3 levels of you. But any little bit of hit you get on your gear is good and will continue to become more important as you get higher in levels. Crit (rating) is a little more important or less important depending on what spec you choose but for right now, all specs consider it a good thing to have.

Crit increases your chance that you will have a critical strike with your spells. If your spell hits for 300 damage baseline, a crit is that same spell hitting for some portion of its damage over what it already hits for. So you might crit for 700 on an enemy. Intellect already provides a boost to your crit, but straight critical rating on your gear also does as well. Remember that all these things are explained if you mouseover a stat on  your character sheet, take a look there sometime. Just remember to look under “General” “Attributes” or “Spell” like in the graphic, Ranged/Melee is for other classes that do Ranged attacks (with their weapons) or melee attacks. “Resistances” isn’t really important right now.

Helpful Tips:

  1. At level 30, you can pay for the ability to get a second specialization. This allows you to flip between two different specializations on your talents page. Doing this cannot be done in combat! Each spec gets its own set of talents, glyphs and spells.
  2. Glyphs only need to be learned once. You can swap talents as many times as needed. You do need Vanishing Powder to swap them, however.

Leichi hits level 30.

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.

Spells

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:

#showtooltip 
/stopcasting
/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.**

Talents

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:

tier-1-talents

  • 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!

Gear

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.

Leveling as a Mage – Levels 1-10

A pandaren lady mage stands under a canopy of leaves.

Meet my mage, Leichi!

You created a mage! Congratulations! What do you do now?

Starting a mage from scratch, especially when you may have not played a caster before, can be a little confusing. Hopefully this series of guides will help you understand mages a little better as you are leveling them. It is pretty fast work these days to get a character to 90, so I don’t need to tell you necessarily where to go, but giving you some pointers on talents and spell choices, plus some mage tips might turn you into better “career” mages and make the leveling experience more fun.

When I roll a new character, what I like to do before literally anything else is make sure my bars are set up. Put any guild perks (if you are in a guild) or racial skills (like Will of the Forsaken or Every Man for Himself) on your bars. I’ll talk about keybinding a little later but for right now, put these out on your bars or hidden somewhere if you use them regularly.

Blizzard’s done a really good job of trying to prepare mages early on with learning the sights and sounds of their class – this includes giving you a mixture of spells to use early on.  Your very first spell at level 1 is Frostfire Bolt. This is a really interesting choice as that spell is only used by frost mages later on in the leveling. But is nice for practicing using a primary “nuke” (longer cast filler spell that will be your bread and butter) and it comes with a slow built in, which is nice.

Having the choice of keeping a mob crawling along after me makes it easier to keep them away. I can also pull more than one mob at a time if I don’t feel I’m going to get overrun. A really good set of skills to start practicing now, little mages, is how to cast while just barely facing a mob. It is an essential ingredient of kiting later on. You turn yourself sideways, just enough that you still have facing on whatever you are targeting and can shoot a spell. Then continue running, using instant cast spells (like Fire Blast at level 5) and Frostbolt again when you’re a safe distance. Immediately after getting starting, you get Frost Nova (level 3).  Your first snare! Huzzah. This makes kiting easier and will also help with AOE-mob-grinding at higher levels if you choose to go frost.

At very low levels, you are just a glorified bag of meat that shoots magic out of your hands occasionally. I didn’t die too many times while starting out, but the possibility of being overwhelmed by more than one mob when you’re questing will ultimately kill you. This is why having a snare and a slow right away is useful. But it all changes at level 7 when you get your first utility spell:  Blink. This is easily your best way to escape a bad situation. Pull too many mobs? Frost Nova them and Blink away to safety!  It can also be used to save you from an accidental fall if you choose to use it right before you make a mage-shaped crater into the ground.

The first ten levels gets rounded off by Counterspell at 8. This interrupts spellcasts from monsters or other players. This is such a marked difference over leveling back in vanilla. You had no way to interrupt caster mobs (which there were many) early on in the game.  You just had to hope you could survive. Giving casters tools like snares and interrupts this early makes the game a lot more fun.

Learning how to interrupt on a dime is crucial! Sometimes you will have to stop DPS immediately and interrupt something in dungeons and raids. It does lower your DPS if you have a tendency to “hammer” an interrupt like I do, but hopefully you’ll get used to it and have it as a reflex. Mages who can successfully interrupt make more money, lead better lives and have more friends (maybe.)

This macro allows you to Counterspell a mob even if you have something focused, or only Counterspell your focus target. This is handy when you can Polymorph:

#showtooltip
/stopcasting
/cast [@target,mod:alt] Counterspell
/cast [@focus,exists,harm] Counterspell; Counterspell

When you hit level 10, you gain the ability to pick a “specialization.” This is basically what kind of mage you will be – you have access now to spells only your kind of mage can use. I picked Arcane Specialization. You can go to the specialization page (default to access this is “N”) and see what spells you will be learning or what will be changing:

Specialization panel in game.

I immediately learned Arcane Blast; fire mages will be learning Pyroblast, and frost mages can summon their Water Elemental pet.  For fire mages specifically, your Fire Blast is now a spell called Inferno Blast and you learn it at level 24.

Helpful Tips:

  1. If you are unsure about what your spells are used for, check your “Core Abilities” tab in your spellbook, they give advice on when to use a spell.
  2. Spells are now instantly learned, so when you hit a new level, just open up your spellbook and drag it onto your bars.
  3. If you don’t like your Specialization, you can change it at any time with a mage trainer.
  4. Mages have changed a little bit since Mists of Pandaria – we can now use wands as main-hands, some talents have become specialization spells, and Arcane specialization uses “charges” now as a resource.
  5. Don’t get frustrated if you die a lot in the beginning, trying new things is what makes you better!
  6. At level 10, you can now queue for battlegrounds.

Leichi cheers at dinging level 10.

Leveling Through Misandry – Levels 70 to 80

Misandry frostbolts a vengeful spirit in Howling Fjord. Levels 1-10
Levels 11-20
Levels 20-30
Levels 30-40
Levels 40-50
Levels 50-60
Levels 60-70

Northrend, land of eternal aurora borealis, long quest chains and brown quest gear. You’re getting really close to the finish line, you have just this last chunk togo before you hit Cataclysm content. Too bad this will feel like the longest 10 levels of your entire mage career. Maybe it is because Misandry will be my 6th 85.

Spells

Like I said in the 60-70 most of your spells have been learned by this point and between now and 85, you will be getting a couple additional high-level spells. Any other spells you get will be for travel only. At level 71 you can pick up the quest Attunement to Dalaran (Alliance/Horde) and complete it for Teleport: Dalaran. In this vein, you learn Portal: Dalaran at level 74. Mages being the superior class was a lot more evident in Wrath, when we were the only ones with access to our class trainer (as well as portal trainer) in Dalaran as well as access to the city before anyone else could get there.

Ritual of Refreshment comes in at level 76, which means you are now the party caterer. This spell takes Arcane Powder, so make sure to pick some up at the reagent vendor, along with your portal and teleport runes. You kids don’t know how easy you have it – back in my day we had to conjure all our edibles by hand for raids and parties. And they didn’t even conjure at stacks of 20! They only stacked to 5! Imagine emptying out your bags before a raid making a stacks upon stacks of cinnamon buns.

Finally rounding out the level block is Invisibility and Mastery. Invisibility is a 3 second “wind-down” spell that reduces your aggro and then finally drops you out of combat when you pop out of this phase of reality. You remain invisible for 20 seconds to enemy mobs and players, giving you the ability to move around (while still seeing them). This spell has several uses: you can use it as a temporary aggro drop, even if you don’t go invisible, you can go invisible to get around extra mobs or stealth past players, and you can use it to get out of a dangerous combat situation if you feel overwhelmed or there is an impending wipe. Damage doesn’t break the aggro reduction or the backwards cooldown (it used to) but certain boss debuffs and AOE damage can still “pop” you out of being invisible. Also any mobs that can see through Stealth will also be able to see you while Invisible. Use this spell often around tanks that aren’t holding aggro off you well or if you want to solo dungeons. I feel like mages get this spell way too late in the game, but given how powerful it is with regards to aggro and stealth, I can see why. Mastery is a spell you get, but it is a passive – it grants you the Mastery stat as well as benefit from Mastery on gear. Mastery is the stat that is talent spec-specific and grants you additional benefits to the spells you cast. However, whether or not mastery is useful for your spec varies. For a longer discussion, see the “Gear” portion of this guide.

Talents

The end is almost in sight, especially for your talent points. All specs at this point will be concluding most of their major point spends in their main talent tree and can begin branching off into the talent points in the other two specs.  Keep in mind that your specs will change slightly when you hit 85.

For frost, you are going to skip putting points in Frostfire Orb for now (as you do not get Flame Orb until level 81) and put your requisite 5 points for this level bracket into Master of Elements and Burning Soul in the fire tree. Master of Elements is a secondary source of mana regen for frost mages (primary being Replenishment from Enduring Winter); it synergizes very well with Frost’s natural crit. Burning Soul gives additional pushback resistance, meaning your casts aren’t slowed as much when taking any damage.  (0/5/31)

Fire is going to go back and pick up some needed talents for the end-game with four of the points you have: Pyromaniac and Cauterize. I didn’t suggest Cauterize earlier because it is a tricky talent for newer mages to get around. What Cauterize does is that if something would have outright killed you (a boss mechanic or just an accident), it saves you, but at the expense of burning you with fire damage. The fire damage can be mitigated with Mage Ward or Ice Block-ed off completely, but if you do not do either of these things, you will watch your small amount of health tick right away and you’ll die again. Pyromaniac is a straight forward talent that gives you a haste boost if your DoTs are ticking on more than 3 targets. This indicates DoTs spread to mobs via Impact rather than hard-casting Living Bomb on 3 targets. Last talent point will go into Piercing Ice in the frost tree, a flat crit boost for your spells. (0/35/1)

Arcane (33/3/0) will be filling out Torment the Weak and then picking up the beginning of some talents in the Fire tree, much like Frost: 2 points into Master of Elements and 1 point into Burning Soul.

Glyphs

If you were paying attention to the links I posted for talents, you’d notice that I included what glyph choices you should be making now that you unlocked an extra set of glyphs at level 75. As always, my patterns for picking out glyphs for your Prime, Major and Minor slots tend to work thusly – Prime glyph should now boost your third-most powerful spell, Major should enhance your third-most useful utility or damage spell, and Minor should be for fun or extra usefulness.

Prime

  • Glyph of Deep Freeze (Frost) – Additional damage for your Deep Freeze spell. A must.
  • Glyph of Living Bomb (Fire) – Additional damage for your Living Bomb spell, now that you have it. Very crucial.
  • Glyph of Mage Armor (Arcane) – This causes your mage armor to regen more mana. This is a large part of your DPS as Arcane.

Major

  • Glyph of Polymorph or Blink (Frost) – Good glyphs for dungeons. Polymorph is a lot more useful if you are not going to raid.
  • Glyph of Blink (Fire) – Good for dungeons or raiding.
  • Glyph of Arcane Power – Reducing the GCD on Mirror Image will factor into your ability to blow through cooldowns as arcane.

Minor

  • Glyph of Conjuring (All) – This benefits every spec but mostly Arcane because you’ll be conjuring mana gems on a more frequent basis, sometimes mid-fight. If you don’t have Presence of Mind up to make one instant, that is.
  • You can also glyph for either of the vanity polymorphs or armors if you do a lot of soloing.

Gear

Northrend content isn’t as bad as Burning Crusade when it comes to gear. Long quest chains award you nice blues, and there’s also the chance at rares scattered around the world that drop nice randomized gear as well. Haste and crit come back into the fold, even if a lot of your cloth gear is STILL going to include spirit. Don’t feel ashamed if most of your major upgrades out of BC gear has spirit on it still.

However, when you hit 80, as I mentioned before, you’ll be getting a stat called mastery. This stat is only present on Cataclysm gear. What mastery does is it enhances the passive stat that gives you bonuses specific to your talent tree – hence why you have to “lock” into a talent tree from level 1. Let’s look at what these specific bonuses are:

All of them seem pretty good right and benefit the spec the way it is played. However, Arcane is the only spec that really benefits from mastery to a degree that you should gear for it. Frost benefits largely from crit after you cap your hit, and Fire it is haste. I wonder why this is, to be honest. I suspect at one point, the intent for mastery was that it was a stat you wanted in half-measures on all your gear, but with the predominance of reforging, gemming and min-maxing, there just came the acknowledgement that mastery is going to fall far behind in terms of pure DPS for every spec BUT Arcane. It’s not terrible to have on your gear as Fire or Frost, but gemming or reforging for it is not suggested.

Misandry cheers at hitting level 80.

Leveling Through Misandry – Levels 60 to 70

Misandry stands in Zangarmarsh in her clown outfit. Levels 1-10
Levels 11-20
Levels 20-30
Levels 30-40
Levels 40-50
Levels 50-60

I admit that I don’t have a ton of really groovy screenshots from Outlands because, as far as I am concerned, most of the really cool stuff to do in Burning Crusade was the end-game content. I’m impetuous and wanted to hit 70 as fast as possible so I could do the worst bout of leveling content directly after that. I’m a sucker for pain and torture, mea culpa. Look at that clown suit. Look at that. That is quintessential clown suit. Illidan was right, I was not prepared.

Spells

The last bracket of leveling was easily the last time you will get a boatload spells across ten levels. Between 60-85, updates to your spellbook will be a little more sparse. It might be good on your wallet as well as your brain. This means that most of your “core” abilities are locked in place with additional end-game functionality and quality of life spells coming down the pipe. That being said, you get Teleport: Shattrath and Portal: Shattrath at 62 and 66 respectively. Six levels and you get transportation options! Are you quivering with excitement yet? I bet you are. Mage Armor shows up at level 68; this is actually rather crucial for arcane mages. Mage Armor is your armor, for the rest of us it is something we throw on occasionally during downtime for the mana regen or resistances, but arcane mages must use this all the time. Consider it the combustion engine of your DPS bus. Why Blizzard is giving arcane mages this so late is beyond me as I noticed some mana challenges earlier in the game playing as arcane, but I digress. At level 70, you get your last spell for the bracket: Spellsteal. This is an intensely powerful offensive dispel. Blizzard’s knocked the mana costs up over time to keep us from spamming it in PVP, but that’s not stopped any mage who wants to try and put pressure on a resto druid or shaman. Besides PVP, spellsteal comes in handy in PVE as well. Many mobs in dungeons and across the land often cast powerful buffs on themselves that stealing will not only be useful to you, but also help smooth the fight along. You can also just get silly with what can be spellstolen – Shadow Labyrinth anyone? As for macros, here is what I use personally to get the best bang for your buck on Spellsteal:

#showtooltip Spellsteal
/stopcasting
/cast [@target,mod:alt] Spellsteal
/cast [@focus,exists,harm] Spellsteal; Spellsteal

What this does is that it allows you to stop your cast to Spellsteal something on the fly (crucial on raid boss fights, see Maloriak) and then cast Spellsteal at either your mouse-over target or your actual target. Having a mouseover function allows people to Spellsteal off of arena frames, raid frames or boss frames available via some user interfaces.

Talents

I blame my newness to the frost spec as the reason why I didn’t tell you guys to take Piercing Chill sooner. At the advice of faithful reader Dave Signal, I recommend this for your spec after you fill in 2 points into Improved Freeze. Piercing Chill is what Frost Mages essentially do to “cleave” – like fire mages and Living Bomb splash/Impact, Piercing Chill applies a chill effect to other targets and gives you more Brain Freeze and Fingers of Frost procs in the process. Last point, after spending the four between Improved Freeze and Piercing Chill, goes into Deep Freeze. This is a very strong part of your DPS as well as overall control. Deep Freeze can only be cast on frozen targets (such as things rooted with Frost Nova) – however, you do remember that Fingers of Frost is your proc that pretends that the target is frozen, yes? This means that you can cast Deep Freeze while FoF is up. It behooves you to cast Deep Freeze on cooldown and having continuous FoF procs helps with this. On targets that can be frozen, it will actually stun them inside of a giant block of ice. On things like bosses, Deep Freeze loses the stun portion and just does extra damage. (0/0/31)

Fire goes in a similar fashion (0/31/0) of filling out talents to get to your 31 point ability – drop your points into Molten Fury and Critical Mass until you get Living Bomb at 69. Now, Living Bomb is one of those iconic spells of the tree, in my opinion. Living Bomb is your only hard-cast DoT as fire, unlike those applied by spells or crits like Pyroblast or Ignite. It caps at 3 targets (unlike the days of LB spam in Icecrown Citadel) but can be nearly infinitely spread outwards if via Impact. Living Bomb ticks do not trigger Hot Streak because it is periodic damage but it is very important to have Living Bomb going on any target that you wish to use Combustion on. In addition to the damage that Living Bomb does on a target when it is ticking, it will also splash fire damage outwards on any targets in range if it reaches the end of its duration and isn’t refreshed. This can be very nice on a boss with adds. If the boss does not have other mobs around it, it is sometimes better DPS to “clip” Living Bomb to keep it rolling with a new application. A very nice Living Bomb macro that can be used in PVP or raiding with arena/boss frames is:

#showtooltip Living Bomb
/cast [@mouseover,harm] Living Bomb;
/cast [@target,harm] Living Bomb;

This means that Living Bomb will cast on whatever harmful target you have your mouse hovering over (say another boss frame) unless you just have something targeted; it will apply there instead.

Arcane has two directions you can go and I tended towards the one that would give you the most bang for your talent point bucks. Since you filled out Nether Vortex last time, you could spend 3 points into Torment the Weak. I went towards dropping one point in TtW, then used the remaining 4 points for Improved Mana Gem (which turns your mana gem as a DPS cooldown), Focus Magic, and then finally your 31-point talent Arcane Power. (31/0/0)

Does this group of talent acquisitions seem a little too much all at once? Here’s a brief explanation about how they all work together:

Arcane Power

The upshot of AP is that it increases your damage by 20 percent, but it comes with a price. It also makes your spells cost a lot more mana, meaning it is a cooldown with a slight penalty and as an arcane mage, this factors into the length of your burn phase. You don’t have to worry about this as much as a level 60 or 70 mage since you have much shorter fights. Just use it like other DPS cooldowns for now.

Focus Magic

Focus Magic is a unique reciprocative mage buff that only Arcane mages get and it definitely pairs nicely with Arcane Tactics in terms of overall buffs you give groups. There’s a lot of math that’s been tossed around about priorities for who you should give FM to (because it will also buff your own DPS), but outside of a raid situation it is sometimes rare that you will even be paired with another caster. I usually stick Focus Magic on a healer in a 5-man dungeon group. If you are in a 10-man setting, Focus Magic typically goes on Fire Mages (need to help our fiery friends out), then boomkins or elemental shaman. Certain warlock specs and shadow priests are also nice too, but not as fundamentally good. The key is to give it to someone who would a) benefit from the crit and in turn b) make sure the crit buff stays up on you most of the fight duration.

Improved Mana Gem

Just imagine this is giving you an extra motivation to use your mana gem! Arcane Mages use theirs all the time, but using one strategically to give you mana as well as a nice little DPS boost is awesome. Treat it like a trinket and drag your mana gem (the item itself, not the conjure spell) onto your action bars for easy use! Getting into good habits this early in your mage career will make you better when you hit 85.

The way you use your cooldowns at 85 is pretty straightforward as well but features heavily into something called a burn/conserve rotation. For now, popping Arcane Power, your mana gem, Mirror Images and any trinkets you have should suffice at the beginning of a fight. Presence of Mind can be used to cast an Arcane Blast on the go or getting 4 stacks of Arcane Blast up in a hurry. Beware though, it does share a cooldown with Arcane Power!

Gear

Outlands sets most of the progress we’ve been making with gear back by a ways. This is for several reasons; most of it has to do with the fact that Burning Crusade was the second expansion in WoW’s development cycle but has largely been un-updated since then. When it was relevant, a lot of players first ran into something called “gear inflation” – greens that they were getting from their first few quests and drops outstripped the amount of basic stats like intellect and stamina that they had on even high-level raiding epics.  You will run into this. However the secondary problem is that this gear also suffered through the initial +healing/+spellpower merge (which made +healing to just flat +spellpower) then later the +spellpower —> +intellect conversion. A lot of an item’s stat weight that had just spellpower as its “green stat” got turned into spirit to compensate.

This means that in order to survive the beating you will take wearing good level 40s/50s blues, picking up STA-heavy, SPI-laden gear isn’t such a bad idea. There’s some greens and blues you get early on in Hellfire Peninsula questing and dungeoning that will be a boon to you all the way to 70s, especially if you do not use heirlooms.

Mantle of Magical Might
Mindfire Waistband
Shadowcast Tunic
Mirren’s Drinking Hat

PS: Sorry no ding shot here, I missed it while leveling.

>> Levels 70 to 80

Leveling Through Misandry – 50 to 60

Misandry enjoys the view in Ogrimmar from her mount.
Levels 1-10
Levels 11-20
Levels 20-30
Levels 30-40
Levels 40-50

We’re growing up so fast, mages. It seems like just yesterday we were starting out at level 1 in a broken world. Now we’re going to be 60 and in an even more broken world, except this time the quest rewards and zone flow hasn’t really been updated in the slightest. But we’re still going to have fun, right?

Spells

The rate at which you learn new spells of significance is going to slow down once you hit 50 or 60 and get into the outer expansions. Still, as you move to Outlands-range, you’ll get a couple of helpful spells before you leave. First up at level 52 is Blizzard. Blizzard is the AOE you will be using exclusively if you’re a frost mage due to awesome talents you get, and the so-so AOE you use when you’re Arcane – pair it with Presence of Mind (when you talent into it) and then use the buff to make it stronger, then cast an instant Flamestrike. Later on, Arcane Explosion will be strong enough to use in most situations where you can survive being in melee. But I digress. Horde mages in particular also get Teleport: Stonard and Portal: Stonard at this point, meaning you can successfully pull off such hilarious mage games as Portal Roulette*.

Frost Armor comes in at 54 – this is an essential for low-level PVP, especially around melee. It applies a slow to mobs or other players that attack you, as well as makes them hit slower. It also gives you 15 percent damage reduction. Booyah! Frost Armor plus any of your shields can keep you from taking a lot of deadlier hits from an enemy. However, if you are just leveling against mobs, I’d suggesting using Molten Armor and blow them up faster instead. Frostfire Bolt is shortly after at 56. Don’t be confused by this spell unless you are Frost. You will never use it as Arcane or Fire except possibly on the very rare occasions you come across a Fire AND Arcane resistant mob. Frost mages use this spell exclusively when they get Brain Freeze procs – up until this point you’ve been using Fireball. Swap Fireball off your bars and put Frostfire Bolt there now for easy access when you get a proc.

And what feels like far too late in the game, you finally get Arcane Brilliance at level 58. It feels like other classes get their proper group buffs very early on, so I wonder why Arcane Brilliance gets pushed back so far. Is it a relic of pre-leveling changes? Who knows. But now you can buff yourself or your party members with extra mana and spellpower. This buff used to be straight intellect but when the SP/INT change went into the game that was seen as a little too powerful.

Unlike every other bracket where you’ve gotten a powerful spell at the end, 60 has no new spells. However, you do have the ability to learn new versions of Polymorph if you choose to track them down. Beware though – some of them are costly, hard-to-get-to, rare, or holiday-related (x2).

Talents

It feels weird to backtrack a lot with talents, but picking talents up when they become useful by the virtue of getting the spells they enhance is a good thing, so don’t feel bad if your talent acquisitions feel similarly non-linear. I pushed ahead in Frost to pick up Ice Barrier. Ice Barrier is the only shield you will use as Frost just because it outstrips Mana Shield on every conceivable level. 30 second cooldown, but it shields you for a minute if the damage doesn’t destroy it, and doesn’t burn through your mana doing so. Its cooldown can also be reset using Cold Snap as well. Once you get Blizzard at 52, you can put full points into Ice Shards. This helps as you gain enough momentum to grind out numerous quest mobs at once; being able to slow them significantly as well as extend your reach on Ice Lance is beneficial to the solo player. I dropped a point into Improved Freeze. Whether you do 2 points in this, or put your last point into Enduring Winter is your choice. I opted for one point into Enduring Winter because I felt like I was chugging a little hard on mana in dungeons. Having your elemental being able to generate Fingers of Frost procs by using Freeze is a big boost to your DPS, but having mana cost reduction and group mana regen in dungeons (with the GO GO GO attitude) is also nice as well. You’ll be filling Improved Freeze in full in your next bracket, so whichever your choose is whatever feels more comfortable for your style of play right now. Your spec should look like this: (0/0/26).

Fire seems to be geared a lot more towards group play when you get down the tree (0/26/0) and I found myself sort of up a wall considering people who do other things like PVP or solo quest. First point goes into Dragon’s Breath, naturally. It is your short-range instant cast cone spell for Fire, much like Cone of Cold. Instead of slowing a mob, however, it will disorient it. This has a nice temporary crowd control effect (like Blind for rogues) but also can interrupt spell-casting if your timing is exceptional. Next, fill out Improved Flamestrike, as the extra Flamestrikes while casting Blastwave are a nice boost to your DPS. However, Molten Fury is only really helpful to people who are pelting high health mobs that live a long while (see: elites/bosses) and therefore make this “Execute” mechanic work. I dropped one point into it for now and put one point into Critical Mass, which while is technically good for everyone in your group, will help your own personal DPS later on. It’s really a hard sell. If you strictly solo quest, you might want to just take the 2 extra points and put them into Blazing Speed for now. You’ll have to do more respeccing when you reach higher levels, but it might be worth it if you like having fun talents.

The way that Arcane plays out near the end of the tree is similar; however, you don’t get any fun group buffs until a little later. Slow is your latest talent acquisition and it works similar to how Frostbolt does in that it slows down mobs or players you apply it to, however, it is a separately casted spell. For those of you who do not PVP, dropping two more points into Nether Vortex seems to make more sense, even if it is redundant. This way you get the slowing effect on top of your arcane blast spell. Easy peasy. The last two points go into Arcane Potency, which is a flat critical strike buff to your spells after you use Presence of Mind (making PoM + Blizzard/Flamestrike a really nice AOE combo if you aren’t dedicated to using Arcane Explosion) or gain Clearcasting. Sure, boring talents for the most part, but definitely useful. (26/0/0)

Glyphs

If you were paying attention to the links I posted for talents this time around, you’d notice that I included what glyph choices you should be making now that you unlocked an extra set of glyphs at level 50. As always, my patterns for picking out glyphs for your Prime, Major and Minor slots tend to work thusly – Prime glyph should now boost your second-most powerful spell, Major should enhance your second-most useful utility spell, and Minor should be for fun or extra usefulness.

Prime Glyph

  • Glyph of Frostfire (Frost) – Additional damage as well as a DoT makes this a great choice for your Brain Freeze spell.
  • Glyph of Pyroblast (Fire) – Similar to why I chose Frostfire Bolt for frost, adding critical strike chance to Pyroblast makes this attractive for additional Hot Streaks.
  • Glyph of Arcane Missiles (Arcane) – It is your second highest casted spell and now it will crit for more. Arcane Barrage looks like an attractive choice, but overall, it is not worth it as you move into higher levels.

Major Glyph

  • Glyph of Ice Barrier (Frost) – Additional damage reduction from Barrier is a nice treat.
  • Glyph of Dragon’s Breath (Fire) – Reducing the cooldown on this spell not only is useful for CC, but makes a difference on some raid fights later on.
  • Glyph of Blink or Polymorph (Arcane) – Arcane does not have a lot of valuable Major Glyphs, so these are two solid options. Polymorph glyph is very handy if you do a lot of dungeons. Arcane Power is not available to you yet, so this is not a choice.

You can also substitute Blink or Polymorph for Dragon’s Breath with Fire, as well.

Minor Glyph

To use a glyph, click on the item in your bags. Then press “N” to open up your talents and glyphs panel (if you have not re-bound it, otherwise use the panel on your UI), and apply the glyph from your list to the circle slots.

Note: I am aware that glyphs, even ones for basic abilities, can be very expensive on some servers. As you are leveling, it is not as big of deal as it might seem if you don’t have glyphs right away. If you are short on cash, perhaps buy or gather some herbs and parchment and find a helpful guildie or person on your server to make it for you. Otherwise, you can wait until later to try and buy the glyphs you need. Don’t fret if you don’t have the big money in-game just quite yet. Save it for things like flying at level 60!

Gear

At this point in the game, gearing should be relatively intuitive and easy for you if you’ve been following my guides thus far. Intellect is still by far your best stat, with hit following behind it. However, remember the hit cap for most things you are doing at this point is only 6 percent, and most of the gear you acquire will not cap you. Don’t worry if you don’t, it isn’t a dealbreaker. Fire favors what little haste and crit you get on your gear (as well as Frost), and Arcane going with high amounts of intellect and crit would do just fine. The only problems you are going to run into is when you start using Outland gear, which hasn’t been itemized in the same way as revamped Cataclysm questing gear. A lot of it still includes Spellpower (which is in a 1:1 conversion with INT, however, SP does not increase your mana pool or your crit), as well as most of the item budget being given over to STA. Many pieces do not have secondary stats either. Make intelligent choices, but when in doubt, pick the gear that gives you the most INT or SP. You’ll outlevel it by 70, so don’t stress too hard about it. A smattering of gear from both the 50s and late 50s will carry you well into the 60s.

Some items to look out for before you hit Outlands though:

Hood of the Royal Wizard/Hood of the Arcane Path – Alliance and Horde versions of the reward from doing the level 50 mage quest. The quest requires you to go into Blackrock Depths (which you will be doing a LOT of if you do Dungeon Finder) and kill Pyromancer Loregrain and some of his cronies. The hood is a duplicate of the Tier 1 mage hat that you can get from Molten Core.

Circle of Flame – Rare epic drop off Ambassador Flamelash in Blackrock Depths.
Anastari Heirloom – Necklace from Baroness Anastari in Stratholme.
Band of Sacrifice – Quest reward ring from Blasted Lands.
Burst of Knowledge – Drop off Ambassador Flamelash in Blackrock Depths.
Essence of Eranikus’ Shade – Quest reward from Sunken Temple.

*Portal Roulette is the best mage game where you cast every portal you have all on-top of each other and people get sent somewhere randomly.

>> Levels 60 to 70

Leveling Through Misandry – Levels 20 to 30

Misandry casting a frostbolt in the middle of a field in Arathi Highlands.

Levels 1-10

Levels 11-20

There’s some periods of your leveling experience that are going to offer only the barest of new experiences. I chose to go through Arathi Highlands on my mage at least partway and felt that it was symptomatic of this. So then I headed south to Stranglethorn Vale and my perspective changed entirely. This still is a bracket of 10 levels that you have to navigate through, though, and you are learning about not just the basics, but filling out what will be your spec-based rotation at this point.

*Spells only learned by Alliance are indicated blue and Horde are indicated in red.

Spells

You get five spells from 20 to 30 and they do a lot of different things depending on what spec you play, or where you want to go.  At level 22, you gain Arcane Explosion. You might be wondering what Arcane Explosion (abbreviated “AE”) actually will do for you, especially if you are a budding arcane mage. Not…much. While this is technically the arcane area-of-effect spell, arcane will never truly excel at AOE damage. Arcane Explosion is cast from the mage’s position, meaning you have to damage mobs that are within melee range of you. It can be a lot more powerful later on as you talent for it, but right now it’ll be only really good for a lot of low-health enemies. It pales in comparison to Blizzard and eventually Flamestrike (but we’ll talk about that in a future post.) One nice benefit about AE is that you can spam it indefinitely as your mana holds as it is instant cast. Back in my day, Arcane Explosion required a talent to make it not have a long cast time! There was even an old mage superstition regarding how jumping while DPSing made you do more damage – Arcane Explosion was one spell that actually adhered to this myth. Up until recently (and I still suspect it is true), AE’s blast radius was determined by your movement, and therefore jumping around actually lengthened the reach of the spell, meaning that hopping around in a circle like a moron made you hit more mobs. Neat, huh?

What’s even more cool than AE is what you get at level 24 – Teleport. You learn these spells from the portal trainers, located near wherever your class trainers are standing. It also is your first reagent cost spell – it uses one Rune of Teleportation to cast; these runes can be purchased from any reagent vendor. Technically this is “one” spell but you get an individual Teleport spell for each of your faction’s cities (Darnassus, Exodar, Ironforge, Orgrimmar, Silvermoon, Stonard, Stormwind, Theramore, Thunder Bluff, and Undercity.) Now you too can be a world traveler! Blizzard used to award these teleports every 10 levels between 10 and 60, but it seemed pretty stupid to do that, what with mages being so cool and all. They also made Teleport use one of their improved UI elements that lets you place the Teleport meta-spell on your toolbars and have all of your various cities slide out for ease of use.

The teleport spells on a hotbar.

This is what it looks like.

Granted you can’t start making money off lazy players just quite yet, but enjoy never needing to bind your hearth in a city ever again. Keep in mind that you have while before you get your mid-continent teleports (Teleport: Theramore, Teleport: Stonard) as well as Teleport: Shattrath and Teleport: Dalaran.

Bread and butter spells like Scorch and Ice Lance come along at level 26 and 28 respectively. Scorch and Ice Lance are great low mana-cost spells early on and can be talented for even greater DPS while moving, depending on when they are used.  Finally, rounding us out at level 30 is Ice Block. This is a very important defensive ability – this means that it can help save not only your scrawny little mage butt, but your healer’s mana in a pinch. Ice Block is classed as an immunity, which is why it is so powerful. This means that while encased in ice, you take no incoming damage. It doesn’t absorb it, it just keeps you from being harmed by it. This means that you can use it for things like saving yourself from falling damage ([Going Down] is a breeze!) and keeping yourself alive during a high damage fight in case a healer dies or you are somewhere you shouldn’t be. It can also be used in a pinch to keep an aggroed mob off of you (if Invisibility is on cooldown) or even to break a fear. However, if you want to do fancy things like that, you have to be able to pop it on and off quickly. Keeping the duration of the immunity at your fingertips will greatly increase your magely intellect – so here is a handy  macro:

#showtooltip Ice Block
/stopcasting
/cast ice block
/cancelaura Ice Block

What this is does is a) allow you to break your cast to pop your Ice Block,  meaning you can have a nice hair-trigger cooldown at use  and b) tapping your Ice Block macro button a second time cancels the spells so you can use it for part of its duration instead of full. It gives you a lot more control over your block and the situation at hand.

At this point, most specs now have a skeleton of a rotation, as well as utility. You have your primary nuke (Arcane Blast, Fireball, Frostbolt), secondary spells (Arcane Missiles, Pyroblast), and instant-cast fillers (Arcane Barrage, Ice Lance). You also have a couple AOE spells (Arcane Explosion, Blizzard) and a couple of utility spells and a defensive cooldown. This is the beginning of your actual life as a DPSer. I will go more into what a proper rotation would be as we get later on to the leveling. At this point, you’re still mostly just casting your primary nuke (especially in dungeons where things die fairly fast), with some use of instant casts if a mob is close to dying or area-of-effect spells if a group of mobs is being tanked.

Talents

Moving on from level 20, we are given 5 new talent points, meaning we can start solidly moving into the second tier of talents in the tree of our choice. First up is Frost – a lot of options to go but very confusing to a newer player. All of them are definitely soloing/PVP- centric because they focus on slows and may not be as useful for a straight PVE scenario. However, slowing a mob and applying a Chill effect (as well as healing your water elemental) plays into a lot of future talents, so after filling out Shatter, I went for Permafrost. Having extra slowing on mobs is useful for questing, even without taking the other talents yet in the second tier.  This is where a lot of choices come up however. I opted for a more PVE-ish build than adding additional slows and chills into my spells (via Improved Cone of Cold and Piercing Chill) and went into Icy Veins, a must-have for dungeoning. It goes hand-in-hand with Ice Floes, when I take that down the road. It just depends on what you’ll be doing more – dungeoning, soloing, or doing battlegrounds. Play around! You never know what you might enjoy. Either way, my talent tree now looks like this: (0/0/11). Fire doesn’t delve into the third tier yet, as there are some solid choices in the second tier: (0/11/0).  After you finish out Fire Power, you will want to go straight for Ignite. It is a very powerful talent and will be a good chunk of your damage at the level cap. I’ve seen the eponymous damage-over-time spell kill mobs dead when they were at low health and running towards me. Blazing Speed has bit more of a survivability angle, therefore a better talent for battlegrounds. Impact is definitely useful but is a more advanced talent to try and get the hang of and you aren’t going to be killing packs of mobs that live for a decently long time, so it isn’t as useful to you at low levels. It also pairs very well with Improved Fire Blast, so save those two talents as you get higher in levels. As for Arcane (11/0/0), you  will want to sink some points into the second tier (Improved Arcane Missiles and Improved Blink, respectively) to get into the third tier. I’d go for 1/2 Missile Barrage rather than Presence of Mind, personally. Beefing up your arcane missiles is great for mana (as you are past the point where your mana regens faster than you spend it) and your damage. Torment the Weak is a crucial talent later on, but a lot of dungeon groups don’t have enough reliable slows to make it worth it yet. Invocation is nicer for PVP, so another consideration depending on what you are doing. Improved Blink gives your Blink a nice little sprint at the end, so I find it better for moving to mobs while questing (without mounting) and definitely nice for dungeons or getting away from enemies!

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.

“Are we done shopping yet, Misandry? I’m tired.”

Gear

Gear, especially from dungeons is a little more plentiful now. I haven’t been hitting dungeons as often as I could because I wanted to see Horde-side quests but I don’t feel like I’m running around in rags at all. Slots you won’t really see gear for  yet is most head pieces or trinkets. If you are an alt with heirlooms, this is largely meaningless to you!

Snagging a cheap Mage deck off the auction house will net you Darkmoon Necklace from the quest. Amulet of the Moon isn’t amazing but it is cheap to make if you are a Jewelcrafter or have a JCer friend and it has INT on it.  Reinforced Woolen Shoulders are good for low-level tailors, but if you are doing dungeons, I’d highly suggest Mantle of Doan to you. It is easily some of the better shoulders you will get and keep for many levels.

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/stamina gear is fairly plentiful from quests, however. Secondary stats like haste are rarer at this level, even if you do dungeons. However, due to Blizzard re-itemizing a lot of  lower-level gear you should be seeing more gear with hit and crit. Now that you are actually receiving gear that may have those stats on it, why don’t we talk about why they are good for you.

Hit is easily the second stat behind Intellect, especially at later levels when you will be constantly fighting mobs that are higher level than you in dungeons. What hit does is determine how often you actually hit a mob with spells. The way this stat works, is that it scales down depending on the difference between  you and the mobs level. If you look at your character sheet, you will notice things like this:

Character sheet, looking at hit percentages.

A baddie that is 3 levels higher than you or is “boss level” will require a lot more hit on your gear to cast spells at them reliably. I’m sure you’ve seen a spell miss before – if you run a combat text add-on or use the in-game scrolling combat text, you’ll sometimes see “MISS!” next to the spell icon. That means that math that goes on behind the scenes determined that your spell didn’t actually hit the mob in that encounter. Hit is not as crucial now if you’re questing or doing level-appropriate dungeons/PVP, as most of those mobs will be within 3 levels of you. But any little bit of hit you get on your gear is good and will continue to become more important as you get higher in levels. There is a 1 percent miss chance that will always be there, no matter how much hit you have but you can come as close to that one percent as you can.

Crit is a little more important or less important depending on what spec you choose but for right now, all specs consider it a good thing to have. Crit increases your chance that you will have a critical strike with your spells. If your spell hits for 300 damage baseline, a crit is that same spell hitting for some portion of its damage over what it already hits for. So you might crit for 700 on an enemy. Intellect already provides a boost to your crit, but straight critical strike on your gear also does as well.

Remember that all these things are explained if you mouseover a stat on  your character sheet, take a look there sometime. Just remember to look under “General” “Attributes” or “Spell” like in the graphic, Ranged/Melee is for other classes that do Ranged attacks (with their weapons) or melee attacks. “Resistances” isn’t really important right now.

>>Levels 30-40

Leveling Through Misandry – Levels 11 to 20

Misandry runs with her water elemental and forsaken forces.

Levels 1-10

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.

Spells

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:

#showtooltip Polymorph
/stopcasting
/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 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.

Talents

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.

"Are we done shopping yet, Misandry? I'm tired."

Gear

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!

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!

Misandry dings level 20 with a cheer!

>> Levels 20-30

Leveling Through Misandry – Levels 1 Through 10

Misandry the mage runs through a field in Tirisfal Glades. The light is a murky green.

Blizzard’s done a really good job of trying to prepare mages early on with learning the sights and sounds of their class – this includes giving you a mixture of spell schools. You get arcane, fire and frost within your first ten levels.  For the first six, however, you only have 3 spells to your name – Fireball (which you start out with), Arcane Missiles (Level 3), and Fire Blast (Level 5). Arcane Missiles are a nice high-damage spell but you can only cast them when you proc – so sometimes a mob will not wait around for you run away and pew pew them in the face and you will die.  At very low levels, you are quite possibly just a glorified bag of meat that shoots fire out of your hands occasionally. I didn’t die too many times while starting out, but the possibility of being overwhelmed by more than one mob when you’re questing will ultimately kill you.

This all changes when you get to level 7; your first slowing ability, Frostbolt, is learned. Even now, getting this spell felt like a lot more of a game-changer to an old hat mage like me. Having the choice of keeping a mob crawling along after me makes it easier to keep them away. I can also pull more than one mob at a time if I don’t feel I’m going to get overrun. A really good set of skills to start practicing now, little mages, is how to cast while just barely facing a mob. It is an essential ingredient of kiting later on. You turn yourself sideways, just enough that you still have facing on whatever you are targeting and can shoot a spell. Then continue running, using instant cast spells (like Fire Blast) and Frostbolt again when you’re a safe distance. Immediately after getting Frostbolt, you get Frost Nova (level 8).  Your first snare! Huzzah. This makes kiting easier and will also help with AOE-mob-grinding at higher levels if you choose to go frost.

The first ten levels gets rounded off by Counterspell at 9. This is such a marked difference over leveling back in vanilla. You had no way to interrupt caster mobs (which there were many) early on in the game.  You just had to hope you could survive. Giving casters tools like snares and interrupts this early makes the game a lot more fun.

The macro I use for Counterspell basically just makes it so you can use CS whenever, even if you are casting. This is crucial because sometimes you will have to stop immediately what you are doing and interrupt something in dungeons and raids. It does lower your DPS if you have a tendency to “hammer” an interrupt like I do, but hopefully you’ll get used to it and have it as a reflex. Mages who can sucessfully interrupt make more money, lead better lives and have more friends (Maybe.)

#showtooltip Counterspell
/stopcasting
/cast Counterspell

When you hit level 10, you gain the ability to start using talent points. This will lead to gaining the bonuses for whatever specialization you choose. Since I went Fire (as picked by you guys), I am now allowed to cast Pyroblast. Frost gets their Water Elemental, and Arcane gets Arcane Barrage.

Misandry the mage cheers when she hits level 10.

Hopefully this series of guides will help you understand mages a little better as you are leveling them. It is pretty fast work these days to get a character to 85, so I don’t need to tell you necessarily where to go, but giving you some pointers on talents and spell choices, plus some mage tips might turn you into better “career” mages and make the leveling experience more fun.

>> Levels 11-20