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Sunday, May 03, 2009

PvPing as an Arcane Mage after 3.1

Before we begin, let's get a couple items out of the way.

First: In case you haven't gotten it yet, or weren't aware, today is your last day to obtain Polymorph: Rabbit, at least during this calendar year. This is purchasable from the Noblegarden vendors for the low, low price of 100 Noblegarden Chocolates (it's only visible on the vendor if you're a Mage), which shouldn't take very long to obtain if you put your mind to it. Noblegarden ends tonight at 11:59pm server time, so even if you have no interest in the rest of the holiday, don't miss out on this little Mage-only perk.

Second: Mirror Images aren't stupid anymore! Yes, when the PTR for patch 3.1.2 went live, the patch notes included one tiny note for Mages, but what a note it was. Your Mirror Images will now attack only the target that you've generated the most hate from, instead of targeting whatever shiny object happens across their fields of vision first. In addition, they'll no longer break CCs whenever they feel like it. I've tested this out a bit, and I'm happy to report that it seems to be working as advertised. Rejoice, my fellow Mages: our copies are no longer ham-fisted, drooling, mouth-breathers. I'm giddy.

And with the news and notes out of the way, we are free to move on to this week's topic: PvPing as an Arcane Mage.

Last week, we talked a bit about how to start going about gearing your Mage for PvP. Beginning this week, we'll be dealing with each of the three main Mage specs, and going over the very unique ways to be successful with each of them in the various types of PvP found in the game. First, we'll talk about Arcane Mages.

Arcane Mages excel at dealing consistent burst damage while staying remarkably mobile. With so many instant-cast options at their fingertips, Arcane Mages are able to run-and-gun like no other Mage spec. Though their raw damage output isn't quite as high as Fire, and Frost Mages have them beat in terms of pure survivability, nobody can hit-and-run quite like an Arcane Mage.

Talent builds

PoM/Pyro 57/14/0

This is an updated version of the classic PoM/Pyro builds from days of yore. It doesn't quite pack the same kind of punch it once did, thanks to Arcane Power and Presence of Mind sharing a cooldown, but what it loses in the "punch-in-the-mouth" department, it more than makes up for in the "now-I-don't-die-when-a-Warlock-looks-sideways-in-my-general-direction" department. There are several popular variations on this build out there, including:

PoM/Pyro 57/14/0

This build sacrifices a bit of damage output for more survivability in the form of Arcane Fortitude, Arcane Shielding, and Improved Blink, trading away some spellpower from the Arcane Mind/Mind Mastery combo. It also trades the silence/interrupt protection of Burning Determination for two more points of Ignite, which is really just a matter of preference. There are several ways to rearrange about 8-10 points of this build to suit your team's needs and your own playstyle, so tweak it however you see fit.

The main goal with an Arcane PvP build is to provide as many survival/escape options as possible, while maximizing the damage and frequency of Arcane's instant-cast repertoire. It's not that difficult a balance to strike, as the tree is fairly well-designed as is, and the opening tiers of the Fire tree are well-suited to complement it.

Arcane+Icy Veins 57/3/11

This is another variation floating around out there. It trades most of the Fire tree stuff for Icy Veins and shorter cooldowns on such essentials as Ice Block and Frost Nova from Ice Floes. Icy Veins can be extremely useful for firing out a few speedy Arcane Blasts to build up a super-strong Arcane Missiles opportunity. It can be otherwise difficult to chain three ABs together in the pushback-filled world of PvP, and this build certainly helps with that.


When you bring an Arcane Mage into any PvP situation, you should know a couple things, and be aware that a few of these will apply to all Mages.

First: you're still a Mage. You're not designed to take much in the way of direct hits. The survival/escape talents in this tree aren't going to change that. If you let that Death Knight pull you in, and then you stick around for any length of time at all, you are going to die, and it will be painful.

Second, and this goes hand-in-hand with the first thing, you should always be moving. With very few exceptions, your talents are designed to help you most when you're on the move. Improved Blink will allow you to avoid a few hits, but only if you're actually Blinking. Your instant-cast damage spells, from Arcane Barrage to Fire Blast to Presence of Mind+Arcane Blast/Pyroblast, allow you to fire them out on the fly, so don't waste the freedom this provides. Run around like a crazy person, Blinking when appropriate, Frost Novaing and Slowing your opponents to keep them at bay, and pausing only to throw out the occasional Polymorph or Arcane Blast.

Some other random tips:

  • Line-of-sight is your friend.

Seriously. Pillar-dance. Very few classes can do the whole "snipe from range then duck back behind cover" thing like an Arcane Mage. Your best spells are almost all instant, so use that to your advantage. And your best tool when your opponent tries to use LoS against you? Arcane Missiles. Once cast, it ignores LoS completely, meaning that if you can catch that Druid poking their head out from behind the crates long enough to hit your Arcane Missiles button, every missile will still hit them even if they drop out of sight before the first has left your hand.

  • Buff up, really.

When I say this, I mean go beyond the standard buffs. Every Mage will apply Arcane Intellect and an armor spell of their choice before heading into PvP, but especially in Arena, you need to put on more. Before that door opens, you want to apply the following to yourself and all of your teammates when possible: Slow Fall, Dampen Magic, Mana Shield, and, of course, Focus Magic on somebody who crits a lot. Then make sure your teammates apply all of their useless buffs to you. Water Breathing? You betcha. Levitation? Indeed. You want everything, and here's why: every crappy buff on you is one more between the buffs you really need and whatever dispelling method the other team is employing. If you run up against another Mage, do you really want him Spellstealing your Arcane Power, or would you rather he ended up with your Slow Fall? Yeah, me too.Unless I'm falling off the ledge at the Lumber Mill in Arathi basin at the time. Then he can totally have my Arcane Power.

  • Escape and heal.

When the going gets tough, the tough run away and hide like ninnies. Prismatic Cloak provides you with instant-Invisibility, but is easily broken. Ice Block solves this problem. It removes any DoTs that might afflict you, effectively cleansing you of all the things that might break your Invisibility prematurely. I'd strongly encourage setting up a macro that ties your Invisibility cast to canceling your Ice Block aura, so you can go invisible the instant you want to. Once you've done that, find a spot where you can Evocate. Glyph of Evocation is an absolute must for PvP Mages, as it is really the only quick way for us to regain mana and health without assistance. If you're successful with this, you've effectively reset yourself, which can be incredibly discouraging to the other team.

Patch 3.1 changed the way Impact works, making it something you can control as opposed to a random proc. This means it will happen less often, but you can now count on it as a CC/spell-interrupt and use it when the situation calls for it. You've already got one of the game's best anti-caster spells in the game in Improved Counterspell, but couple that with a well-placed Fire Blast/Impact hit, and you can almost pretend you're a Rogue or something. With Impact being tied to one of your instant-damage spells, it's easy to forget and waste it on an enemy who isn't doing anything worth interrupting, and though that isn't the worst thing ever, it's certainly better to have it available for when that Paladin is about to Holy Light himself from 10% to 100% and your Counterspell is still on cooldown.

  • Absorb spells as often as you can.

Incanter's Absorption is an interesting talent. If used with skill and patience, it can turn the tide of a match completely. Pay attention to the types of magic you're being hit with, and try to absorb as much of it as you can with your ward spells. Though the mana lost by using Mana Shield is a problem, the spellpower granted by absorbing a bit of damage with it can be significant. If you have a Priest on the team who can Power Word: Shield you, make sure you let them know how awesome it can make you, and then make sure you bake them cookies or send them a fancy e-card or something. Maybe slip some gold in with the next batch of Strudels you conjure for them, I don't know.

Judicious use of your various damage absorbing options can make you a powerhouse for a good portion of your fight, so make sure you get the most out of Incanter's Absorption. Imagine, if you will, a fight against a Warlock that goes like this:

Between your Mana Shield, a timely Fire Ward, and your Priest teammate's Power Word: Shield, you manage to increase your spellpower by the maximum allowed by the talent: 600. You do this without taking any significant damage. You hit your I-Win macro button, triggering Presence of Mind, your spellpower trinket, and Arcane Blast. Your spellpower is now increased by an extra 440, and you've got the Arcane Blast buff, which will increase the damage done by your next spell by 15%. Missile Barrage procs. You trigger Arcane Power, increasing the damage of your spells by another 20%, and fire off Arcane Missiles at the same time. Your effective spellpower on this spell --if your normal spellpower is, say, 2k--is 3,040, and the spell itself will do 35% more damage than it ordinarily would do. Let's say, just for fun, that Clearcasting, and thus Arcane Potency, also proc. Each of the five missiles that now issue forth from your extended fingers at the Warlock will do something like 2k damage on a normal hit, and crit for like 3k.

In the space of 3 seconds or so, and with two button presses (assuming the right macros are in place), you've just done something in the neighborhood of 15k damage. Feel free to imagine even more things, like that you've managed to apply Slow to the Warlock, and your spells against him are doing an extra 12% damage thanks to Torment the Weak, or that the game simply couldn't keep up with all the awesomeness you just introduced into the server, and the code of the game breaks down, causing the very foundations of the World of Warcraft to tremble. Somewhere deep within Blizzard/Activision headquarters, a lone game designer looks up from his computer screen and begins to weep openly, though he doesn't know precisely why.

Bottom line? Incanter's Absorption can be awesome, if you know how to use it. Also, killing Warlocks is super fun.

Now that this 1,000 word column is fast approaching 2,000 words, I'd better wrap it up. Arcane PvP Mages out there, what other tips do you have?


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