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Mage PvP Guide
There are a lot of classes in WoW that excel at PvP. Mages, however, are usually considered one of the best PvP suited classes. Many say that the only true way to PvP a mage would be a frost talent build. True, the frost tree is indeed excellent for crowd control and mana conservation, however, fire and arcane builds can also be effectively used if the right set-up is applied. Better gear will give your character more potency and playing battlegrounds and arenas will bring about better PvP specific gear. Although PvP specialised mages should have good gear - this is true of any class - a lot also depends on the player's skill and ability to react to the challenges faced.
The arcane tree tends to be the most overlooked tree in an unexperienced mage's eye. It's true that a lot of the talents offer very different benefits of those offered in fire/frost. The abilities, however, work together overall to support the mage's overall mana, survivability, and damage. As any high level mage knows, all of the arcane spells have much higher mana costs than that of fire and frost spells. So if you choose an arcane build, know that you'll need a larger mana pool. In PvP, the arcane tree is usually complimented nicely by the fire tree, but many have found a suitable Arcane/Frost hybrid build that can suit their needs. I personally would never suggest relying solely on a pure arcane build for PvP as most of the talents wont be that helpful by themselves. You can think of the arcane tree as a supplement to another tree even though you'll most likely have more points spent in arcane as you'll see later in this guide. Arcane Barrage is an Arcane Mage's newest toy, an instant casted spell dealing as much damage as a Fireball. As of Wrath of the Lich King and the following Patches, Arcane Mages are a force to be reckoned with. But not without flaws. Mana is still a problem, Arcane spells still cost a hefty amount. Missile Barrage, a talent that can proc off of your Arcane Blast, Arcane Barrage, Frostbolt, Fireball, and Frostfire Bolt, is a talent that reduces the cast time of Arcane Missiles by 2.5 seconds and having each missile fire every .5 seconds. This is deadly to anything caught in its path.
This tree is thought of to be for raiding and other group oriented activities and should be avoided for PvP. Not true at all as most of the time I play with a deep fire build that I use for raiding. If you're a fire build fan realize that you'll be most effective when you travel in a group of players on your own team. With that being said, a deep fire build is not very effective in most arena settings. Fire builds revolve around you being able to use fireball and scorch. A fire mage's fireball will seriously damage any class, but it's a slower cast spell and PvP is fast paced so it should only be used when your opponents aren't focused on you. Otherwise, they'll most likely interrupt your cast and that wastes time you could have used to get shorter cast spells off on your target. The tier 4 (2) set bonus gives your fireball and frostbolt a 100% chance to avoid interruption which is great to prevent push back on your cast timer, but most close quarter combat classes will jump behind you before the spell casts, leaving you probably hurt and your opponent undamaged. Scorch is amazing as it does a considerable amount of damage considering its fast cast time and you can fire them off before your opponent can interrupt or duck behind you. Scorch also - if you have the talent - adds a debuff that increases the target's damage taken from ALL fire spells. Burning Soul also gives you a 70% chance to avoid spell pushback. Fire also gives you unique instant damage spells that have their own unique effect: Dragon's Breath (disorientates enemies for 3 seconds), Blast Wave (potent fire aoe that dazes all affected targets) and lets not forget Ignite. Ignite is an amazing talent that causes your fire spell critical strikes to burn your target for 40% of the critical strike's damage. Ignite will even stack with other ignites and can cause a target to burn for an additional 2000(ish) damage while taking a pounding from your direct damage spells. This build certainly dishes out some nasty damage, but you need to be able to have a lot of freedom to do so, which most opponents won't allow for. However, 1v1 situations tend to not work in favor of a fire mage as they're quite frail.
All of the frost damage spells are very weak in comparison to arcane and fire spells, but they offer slowing effects and a pet who will do 900 damage a shot (2.5 sec) and provide a second frost nova.
However, what they lack in damage, they make up for in snare effects and lower cast time. Frostbolt and Cone of Cold both have an amazing snare attached to them. Simply hitting with one of these two spells will slow your opponent to a crawl, which doesn't matter so much to a caster class but it cripples melee based classes. This is essential for winning fights as a frost mage. Snaring your opponents will prevent them from catching you and crushing your cloth defenses. If you can effectively keep them snared, they wont be able to do much damage to you and you can take your time taking down their health. Assuming they cant negate that movement impairing effect.
Shatter and Ice Shards are the single most important talents in your frost build. Shatter increases the chance that frozen targets will be critically struck by 50%, which means they'll almost always take critical strike damage while frozen. Ice Shards adds 100% more critical strike damage which is what frost mages rely on to quickly subdue enemies.
Ice Lance works beautifully with these two. Ice Lance does horrible damage unless its target is frozen. On a frozen target, it does triple damage and with shatter it will most likely critically hit doubling its damage. Ice Lance is a mage's "ace in the hole" as it is an instant cast and recast spell that will do 2000+ damage on frozen targets it critically hits and costs almost no mana. Assuming you can get two ice lances off that both critically hit your target, you'll do over 4000 damage in about 2 seconds which drastically increases the chance you'll win.
Frostbite gives a chance that ALL your spells (including ice shield) will freeze your target in place for 1.5 seconds, enough to get an ice lance off, and Frostbite occurs frequently too.
Ice Barrier absorbs damage and prevents spell interruptions without draining mana like Mana Shield. This is essential to your survival most of the time.
Water Elemental is also nifty as it not only gives another source of decent damage output as well as another enemy for your opponent, but it also allows you to use another frost nova that can freeze your enemy in place while your own frost nova is on cool-down.
All mages learn ice block at level 30 regardless of talent build. Another big survival talent. Ice Block makes you completely immune to everything (short of it being dispelled by a priest's Mass Dispel) and removes all damaging effects or snare that are on your character. A good tactic is to summon your water elemental right before you cast ice block so it takes some health off your opponent while they try to figure out their next move. Frost Mages slightly lack in overall damage but excel in survivability and ability to control the fight.
Arcane/Fire (POM Pyro) Quite possibly one of the most effective arena 2v2 or 3v3 builds, it relies heavily on burst damage and eliminating a player from the opposing arena team. This build requires the talents Presence of Mind (When activated your next damage spell is an instant cast) and Pyroblast. Now, you can already see where this is going. An instant cast pyroblast? Yeah, it's nasty alright as Ive seen them hit up to 7k on a debuffed target which then proceeds to trigger Ignite for a 2500 DoT. However, it wont always result in a critical strike but it is nonetheless very deadly because it leaves the target little time to respond before you finish them off, assuming they arent already dead. The cooldown on this combo is 3 minutes which leaves the mage left with Slow, Arcane Missiles, Fire Blast, and Arcane Explosion to deal with what remains. Arcane Missiles is a very nice PvP damage spell. It shoots missiles in bursts while you channel it and has a 100% chance to avoid interruption while you channel (yes you need the improved arcane missiles talent), and even if your target runs away your character will automatically keep them in front of you so they can't run behind you while you channel. Another bonus is that even if they break LoS, you usually will shoot an extra two missiles after your target hides. The damage output is high, but costly in mana. Slow snares your opponent and increases their casting time and decreases movement speed allowing you more time to kill them before they can react or catch you. Arcane Build also increases spell damage of not only arcane spells, but ALL schools of spells. I personally have found this build to be very effective in almost any PvP situation.
Universal Tactic? Don't let them get near you. Whether it being burning them down to the ground before they see you, or slowing them and snaring them enough to kill them.
Another simple Universal Tactic, is obviously staying as far away as possible from your target, but also keeping that distance. Meaning if they come running toward you, back away, or close the gap and Frost Nova, or what I like to do is charge towards them and blink when i'm about 10-5yds from them, this is not only funny, but it confuses them and also gives you time to continue running (Because you'll now be facing away from them, and running forward is faster than stepping backwards :)) NOTE: This humerus little trick should be used on Living Enemies, meaning if you try this on a Boar, he'll turn around right as you've blink - Computers are like that..
Keep in mind that if you're forced to be on the move, you do have spells like Cone of Cold, Arcane Explosion, and Fire Blast that do not have cast times.
(All) Cone of Cold - regardless of spec, if someones in hot pursuit (assume you're close enough) take a jump, swing your mouse around, cast, and resume your escape. This spell slows your target by 60%, dealing a nice amount of damage, instantly.
(All) Arcane Explosion - This is simply an amazing spell. Simply spamming arcane explosion will cut down any type of opponent as it's an instant cast and almost instant recast. I recommend this course of action if you find yourself unable to gain distance from your enemy. Hunters are especially vulnerable to this.
(All) Blink - Goes without saying. You'll be surprised at how many people will be caught off guard if you disappear behind them and it puts distance between the two of you, but I'll suggest that you dont get greedy and try to get a fireball or frostbolt off before they catch up, stick to the fast cast stuff.
(All/Frost) Frost Nova/Ice Lance - If you're frost this is what you'll be doing anyways, but this combo is useful for any build because you can consider it free 900 damage with no mana or cooldown cost yet no one but frost mages seem to ever use ice lance. Ice lance can sometimes break frost nova, due to this i tend to use a more damaging spell, arcane missles or fireball (at the expense of mana).
(All) Sheep - Always sheep someone at the beginning of a fight. They'll be forced to use a trinket to escape and that's one less cooldown they'll have to escape any other effects you throw at them. Not to mention it prevents warriors from charging if they already havent. Note: NOT Completely useless against druids as is commonly thought.. sheep can be used to interrupt heal (or any cast in general) if counterspell and dragon's breath is still on cooldown. Also ( preferrably only if druid is at or close to full health) sheep can save a fleeing teammate as you'd be suprised it can take a druid up to a couple seconds to realize they've been sheeped and shapeshift out of it buying your teammate time to escape.
(All/Arcane) Invisibility - For you Arcane Mages, specing into Prismatic Cloak not only reduces the damage you take, but turns your Invisibility spell into the likeness of a Rogue's Vanish! Works wonders for getting out of a bad situation. A pretty overlooked ability but it's extremely useful for sneaking behind enemies before the start of a match or battle but once your cover is blown you're screwed when attention is shifted to you unless you can blink through them (after you get a few spells/AoEs off) and get back to the safety of your teammates.
(Arcane) Prismatic Cloak (Talent) - This being the Tactic section, I felt I could share a little trick that saves your butt in a bad situation: Ice Block followed by a Mage Vanish. Ice Block will remove everything that would normally knock you back into the visible world. Gives you a good 15 seconds to make a run for it, or get to a less conspicuous place (Assuming no one drops an AoE and finds you. NOTE: You are invisible, not stealthed, which means unless they have a Warlocks Detect Invisibility, they will never know.)
(Frost) Shatter Combo - Having Fingers of Frost proc'd and assuming you've time to cast, using both charges on Frostbolts' you can cast, if timed right, Ice Lance to also benefit from the Fingers of Frost. Another Shatter Combo is simply Frost Nova + Frostbolt + Ice Lance. Using your Water Elemental's Freeze (Frost Nova) you can give yourself a wide variety of Shatter Combos.
(Arcane) Improved Counterspell (Talent) - A Silence! Turns casters into critters for 4 seconds. The cooldown on Counterspell itself is 24 seconds. If you see a caster, be sure to cast this top priority, and as soon as that cooldown is up, cast it again. A Tactic i've done as Arcane is this: Presence of Mind + Polymorph instantly sheeps your enemy. At this point I cast my Combo Macro which Activates Icy Veins (Frost Talent Tree) and Arcane Power. Then I begin casting Arcane Blast, as soon as Arcane Blast lands and hurts the target, they'll pop out of Polymorph in which case i'll Silence them (Counterspell), giving myself some time to get another Arcane Blast and Arcane Barrage off. Even a Missile Barrage. This works nicely on enemies who don't use Mana, just Substitute Counterspell for Slow.
(Arcane) Slow (Talent) - A nice spell that can turn a tough enemy into an equal foe. This spell causes your victim to move 60% slower, his ranged attacks are slowed by 60%, and his cast time is increased by 30% (Meaning he'll cast 30% slower). Having them slowed you've got a little more time to think. Slience? Sheep? Shield? Ice Block? Or simply to escape!
POM Pyro: (Arcane/Fire):Click
Boom! Arcane: Click