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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.