So, you're thinking of playing a Mage? This page is intended to give a short overview of what to do over the first 5 levels or so, just to get you started on the right path. If you're looking for more of an overview of the class's abilities, see the main Mage page. For more advanced topics, see mage tactics.
For a more general overview on starting out playing WoW, see the Newbie Guide.
A Mage's primary mode of damage is through magic, meaning that they avoid melee combat at all costs so as to be able to cast magical spells. They can do direct damage, but truly shine with their ability to inflict various types of AoE damage, buff groups, control crowds, conjure water and food and open portals to capital cities for themselves and party members. However, they cannot heal and are unlikely to stay alive very long under fire.
If you're considering playing a mage, you'll have to ask yourself a few questions, first:
- Do I like being a "glass cannon", able to inflict massive damage, while also being fragile?
- When grouping, can I control the aggro my spells generate to avoid becoming the target of a creature?
- Can I think quickly, and handle a large set of hotkeys in the process of staying out of melee range?
- Do I like providing AoE support, using various AoE spells to nuke large groups of enemies?
- Do I like the fact I can conjure my own water and food, thus saving money in the long run?
- Do I subsequently not mind that others will want to get their hands on that water and food and often ask me in private messages?
- Do I like being able to transport myself and my friends to capital cities of my faction in mere seconds from anywhere in the world?
- Do I subsequently not mind that others will private message me whenever I'm in a main city to portal them to somewhere else?
These are all things a mage will deal with. It's not the hardest role, but can be very enjoyable both in single and group play. Mages are not as popular as priests or warriors when people need to set up a group, but can be the third choice in certain instances once the warrior/priest combination is brought together.
If you're a power-player, you'll want to consider the various Racial Traits when choosing what race to play. You might also consider the racial Attributes, but after the first 20 levels or so these become largely irrelevant, as the items you've gained will outstrip any racial bonuses.
- A good overall choice for any caster. Expansive Mind directly increases your mana pool and chance to critically hit slightly, Escape Artist provides a quite useful PvP tool as almost every class has a way to slow/ensnare you. Arcane Resistance its just a minor benefit, and Engineering Specialization gives gnome characters a leg up on what is considered the best utility (and fun) profession in the game. There is another factor to consider on gnomes: size. While mounted you're as easily spotted as anyone else, however while on the ground it is much easier to hide using the environment than any other race, bushes that may barely reach the chest of a human or night elf will completely cover you including your name over your head, and although you can still be targeted by other means other than directly clicking on you, that doesn't mean the enemy will be facing the right direction to attack you, this fact however it's just icing on the cake.
- Humans have some decent racials for magi, especially for player versus player. Diplomacy, while generally useful to save time, does not directly improve your effectiveness, and Sword Specialization offers little to a pure caster, Mace Specialization (human racial) it's useless since magi cannot wield maces. The Human Spirit improves the effectiveness of Molten Armor, but the benefit its so small it is almost negligible. Perception grants a greater chance of detecting Rogues and Druids Prowling in Cat Form which may give you an edge on PvP if you react quickly. Every Man for Himself is considered the single most powerful PvP racial and it still has plenty of use on PvE.
- Heroic Presence will allow you to reach the Hit cap easier than other races, thus allowing you to spend those extra points into something else that will boost your DPS. Gift of the Naaru may become an extremely useful tool if timed properly as it suddenly gives a non-healer class a way to heal. While Jewelcrafting may not be the profession of excellence for a mage, it is still an overall solid choice and Gemcutting will make your life easier by saving money and time gathering the materials. Shadow resistance it's just a minor boost.
- Forsaken aren't the best choice of race for a mage, but some racial abilities are of use. Cannibalize is an ability of situational use, as unless you need to restore your health while in combat, it is usually faster to simply summon some food and use it to restore health. Will of the Forsaken was considered one of the best racials in the game for PvP until it's recent nerf in patch 3.3, it now shares a 45 sec cooldown with Medallion of the Horde, however it is still helpful against Warriors, Warlocks and Priests. Shadow Resistance, is only of any use while fighting a warlock or priest or a mob that uses shadow attacks. Underwater Breathing can be useful when a quest takes you to the bottom of a lake, but many quests requiring you to do this will provide you with an item to restore your breath.
- Trolls are a popular choice of race for magi, due to having racial abilities highly suited to the class. Regeneration increases health regeneration by 10% and allows an additional 10% of the total regeneration to continue while in combat, but as magi can turn mana into health via conjured food, this doesn't affect downtime very much. Regeneration is slightly useful in combat as troll magi can take one or two extra attacks before dying. Berserking is an excellent racial for both PvE and PvP, increasing the cast speed of all spells, allowing you to do more damage in the same time span. Beast Slaying grants trolls an extra 5% damage against all beasts, making it excellent for solo grinding, as many of the mobs you encounter will be beasts. Da Voodo Shuffle reduces movement impairing effects by 15%, giving you a better chance to escape even if your Blink is on cooldown.
- Blood Elves
- Blood Elves are a decent choice. Arcane Torrent restores some mana and silences all enemies within 8 yards, making it a small benefit for both PvE and PvP. Magic Resistance allows the mage a 2% chance to resist all schools of magic, making Blood Elves reliable against other casters. Arcane Affinity increases Enchanting skill by 10, giving Blood Elves a head start in levelling one of the most expensive professions.
For more casual gamers, there's really no major difference between the races - choose the race that you want to play, whether for its looks, its voice, or because its simply good fun!
The easiest way to progress through the early levels is to simply do any and all of the quests you can find. Not only will you breeze through the first 5 to 10 levels, but you'll get useful gear and precious money. Money is particularly important so you can purchase your spells.
You will spend levels 1 to 5 in your starting town. Make sure you get all the abilities and spells you can from your trainer. Between level 5 and 6 you'll find yourself heading off to your second town and a new trainer who can teach you various things. At the second town, repeat the process - do each and every quest you can find. It's important to keep up with your abilities and your gear. Now is also an appropriate time to start thinking about what profession you want. You can choose them once you reach level 5.
Levels 1 - 3
You're initially equipped with a ranged attack, Fireball, and a self-buff, Frost Armor. With 10, you can purchase Arcane Intellect. Keep both Frost Armor and Arcane Intellect active on yourself at all times. And feel free to cast Arcane Intellect on others as a friendly gesture.
Open combat at maximum range with Fireball. Keep spamming until the creature is dead, attacking with your staff if necessary. For trolls, activating Berserking as often as possible to supplement your spell damage.
Levels 4 - 5
At level 4, you learn Frostbolt and Conjure Water. Conjure Water helps eliminate the need for you to purchase mana regenerating items. You should now open at maximum range like before, only this time start with a Frostbolt. Opening with Frostbolt slows the creature significantly and generally is the best opener you have at this level. After the Frostbolt is cast, you should then spam Fireballs until the target is very low health or dead. If it is below 10% health or so, you can melee it until it dies to save mana (later on you will want to replace meleeing low health targets with wanding them).
You will notice that your mana runs out after about 2-3 creature kills at low levels, but that is fine due to Conjure Water. It is best to use Conjure Water before you go off into combat, because you will not be interrupted by creatures attacking you. Many players conjure a stack (20, or even several stacks at higher levels) of Conjured Waters at this level before going out into the wilds, simply so you do not have to risk doing it near aggressive creatures.
Notable Early Quests
The intention is to link into the Quests page here with a few low-level quests once they are added, with particular emphasis on including quests with nice mage rewards, and any mage-specific quests. No real need to include the very basic starting quests as everybody will see those easily enough -- Goldark
The following lists are not intended to be comprehensive, but cover a selection of the best quests in the starting areas from levels 1 to 10.
Acceptance of one of these level 10 quests prevents acceptance of the other and in general the Mirror Lake items are better and at lower difficulty in accomplishing, giving incentive for an early trip to Elwynn Forest.
-  - The head of Edwin VanCleef - Westfall Level 22-23 This isn't an early quest, but it has an excellent reward for mages; The gives you +6 Intellect and + 11 spirit, which is a huge benefit to a level 25 mage.
Since Draenei can get to Teldrassil earlier than Humans or Gnomes, consider a visit for
-  - for the , although you need to start with for the quest chain.
-  - for the , although you need as a pre-req.
On Soloing and Grouping
For the first 10 levels, the Mage shouldn't have much trouble soloing up to two creatures at a time around your level. Your primary damage comes from using Fireball and Fire Blast. Fire Blast is insta-cast, so for the best DPS you want to be using this spell whenever it's available, although it can be used to quickly kill fleeing opponents if you're likely to have them wounded enough to flee within 8 seconds (the cooldown time). Frostbolt is useful as an opening move because it slows the creature down. A good early substitute for fire spells at this level is Arcane Missiles.
Second Opinion: Fire Blast is a very mana inefficient spell to use in PvE. I'd avoid using it all, unless you need to quickly kill a runner to prevent adds. Arcane Missiles are generally also a terrible spell to use this early on. It gets interrupted if a creature even hits you, making you lose a lot of mana trying to re-cast it. It is much better to use Frostbolt and then spam Fireballs at these levels, and later just using Fireball or Frostbolt. Arcane Missiles is really only a useful ability in PvP or later on raiding.
Always keep your buffs on. Frost Armor not only gives you more armor but also slows down a creature's attack speed. Arcane Intellect boosts your Intellect giving you more mana and a higher chance to get a critical hit (crit) with damage spells. Given that a mage is limited to cloth armor, it is also a good idea to obtain armor kits at the earliest possible opportunity and to upgrade your armor kits as you level. Enchantments are another option but remember that you will go through equipment rather quickly at this stage of the game so if you want enchantments, put them on items you believe you will hold on to for a while.
Second Opinion: It generally is unnecessary to get Armor Kits at these low levels. I would not even bother with them unless you can get them for very cheap or free. If you play your mage properly, most monsters will be dead before they even get to you, and if they are not dead when they reach you, they should be either Frost Nova'd or only get a few hits on you before they die.
Also, don't be afraid to use your staff to whack creatures over the head. During the early levels, this can be a significant form of damage and allows you to get started on increasing your skills in Defense and Staves.
Second Opinion: Just do not use melee weapons past around like 10. After this you will die if you try to melee things, even at very low health. If you cannot afford a , then I highly advise that you just use spells only to kill monsters past level 10. Meleeing drops off dramatically in DPS for a Mage after level 10.
Staves are the preferred weapon for a Mage to use since most staves offer bonuses to Intellect. Mages can learn to use daggers and one-handed swords from a Weapon Trainer but keep in mind one thing: as a mage, you have the lowest Attack Power of any class. Choose your weapons based on their stat bonuses and not how much damage they will do. You won't be on the front lines due to your low armor.
Coming across a wand early on will be difficult. If all else fails, seek out an enchanter to create one for you as enchanters learn to make basic wands in the beginning. Once you have one, use it often to bring your wand skill up (wands are great for fleeing opponents.) Don't be discouraged if you miss or a creature resists your wand. The more you use it, the better it will perform. Also it's very important to get as much Intellect as possible.
Lastly, as you progress beyond the first levels there are two basic key things to keep in mind: watch your surroundings, and watch your mana. As a mage you are very, VERY fragile and getting pummeled by unexpected attackers who you are not ready to deal with will very quickly ruin your day. When in doubt, try to escape, then return when you can safely blast your foes from a distance. And for the mage, mana is life. Without mana, you're dead.
A Mage's strategy for grouping isn't all that different from soloing. Since your spells ignore a target's armor rating, even a low level Mage can do more damage than a Warrior of the same level. The drawback is that this means you have a greater chance of drawing aggro so be sure to give your party's tank a chance to get the monster's attention before you cast. Try not to single out targets for yourself. Instead, pick the target everyone's attacking. You can do this by selecting another player and hitting the "F" key to select that player's target. And pass around Arcane Intellect! Even classes that do not have mana can benefit from higher Intellect stat as it is the stat used to increase weapon skills.
The Primary spells you will be using in a group is either a Direct Damage (DD) Spell (like Arcane Missiles or Scorch) and an Area of Effect (AoE) spell (like Arcane Explosion or Flamestrike). The DD spell will be used to focus on a single creature - usually the one "pulled" to the group - since the usual group tactic is to focus on one creature and take it down fast. Your AoE spell is for when the pull goes bad or your healer picked up Aggro and has a creature pounding on him. This is the time to step in and take one for the team - spam your AoE spell to get as much Aggro for the creatures directed to yourself - freeing up the healer to focus their healing attention on you. Be careful about this tactic though. Your tank will need a few seconds to draw the monster's attention and it usually only takes one critical hit to kill you.
The last "must have" spell for the Mage, and which makes them unique in a group, is the crowd control spell Polymorph (or "Sheeping" as it is known). Sheeping causes a creature to wander around as a harmless sheep for a time (depending on spell rank) giving the party time to deal with other creatures. Once the spell ends, or if someone attacks the Polymorphed target before the duration ends, the target will angrily come to you. Also keep in mind that a Polymorphed target will regenerate hit points at three times the standard rate. Polymorphing a damaged target is a very bad thing. And finally, Polymorph only works on Humanoid, Beast or Critter type targets.
- A most useful Mage profession! As a cloth wearer, you can craft your own garments, many of which can add nice spell bonuses. And let's face it, everyone needs bags!
- Enchanting just naturally seems to go with a mage. After all, you are the master of the Arcane. Being able to teleport to your enchanting clients is also a plus. It also makes a good second profession in tandem with Tailoring. Enchanting allows you to add magical enchantments to boost the statistics of weapons and armor, including your own. However, you do need to disenchant existing magical items in order to get the magic components you'll require -- thus tailoring's ability to make Green items out of the ever-present cloth drops you can then disenchant make it an even better choice as a companion profession. This can be an expensive business!
- Herbalism and Alchemy are fairly useful for the Mage. Herbalism allows the gathering of various herbs and the Alchemy profession allows the creation of various potions. Health potions will often save your life, Mana potions instantly restore Mana, not to mention potions of Defense, Agility, Regeneration potions, and more.
- Like enchanting, Inscription is a natural fit for a Mage. Scribes can create Scrolls, Vellum (for Enchanters), and - most importantly - Glyphs, which can be used to modify the effects of your abilities. Not only will you be able to craft your own glyphs, but you can make a profit selling glyphs on the Auction House. You need to mill herbs to acquire the Pigments required to craft the Inks you'll be using, so Herbalism is a must if you're going to take this profession. Although Inscription was introduced with Wrath of the Lich King, you do not need any expansions to take Inscription.
- Jewelcrafting is quite a useful profession for a mage, as many of the higher quality rings, necklaces and trinkets are suited to casters. Jewelcrafter can make jewelery (Rings, Necklaces) and later on cut gems that are not only useful but profitable. Jewelcrafting is expensive without mining, so mining skill is also a requirement for this profession. You need the Burning Crusade expansion to take Jewelcrafting.
- If you don't go for one of the typical pairings, you may just want to grab Herbalism, Skinning or Mining and use them to sell resources for straight profit, since they are always in demand.
Start your profession early! It's usually not too expensive and you want to ensure that the gear you create with your skills is applicable to your character's level.
As a Mage, you can summon all the food and drink you'll ever need. This makes Cooking and Fishing seem fairly redundant - nevertheless, there's no harm in picking up the basics. But both have uses even for Mage: several cooked foods provide buffs to two statistics, typically stamina and spirit, and fishing is a good way to make money. Even if you don't plan on raiding, high level food cooked from fish caught in Outland and Northrend provides some essential buffs to spellpower.
All secondary professions cost 90 each to learn. Eating cooked food will make you "Well Fed," giving a player a fifteen minute boost to Spirit and Stamina, two of a Mage's primary stats. With the Fishing profession, you can fish for Sagefish. Unlike other cooked meals, eating a cooked Sagefish offers an increase to Mana regeneration.
First Aid is another important profession for Mages. Outside of potions, First Aid is the only other way a Mage can heal themselves during combat. Aside from bandages, First Aid allows a player to create to remove poison effects. If you have excess bandages, you can sell them to vendors for a decent price or even to other players. You will probably make more money selling the raw materials (cloth) as the materials required for bandages are worth more to tailors for making clothes and, in particular, bags.
Unlike a melee class, mage are not very dependent on gear. Rather, you should ensure you have enough money to afford all your spells (the teleport spells at levels 20, 30, and (with the Burning Crusade expansion) 60; and the Portal spells, at 40, 50, and (with BC) 65, which are very expensive) and focus on leveling up.
Mage are somewhat fortunate in that they tend to get somewhat well-endowed financially a bit quicker than a lot of other classes, although this greatly depends on your playing style. If you are in groups a lot, and lots of gear comes along that you don't use, it's generally more polite not to roll on the things you have no use for, and let others such as Warriors and Paladins take the Mail equipment. In this case, your profession will probably be a higher source of income. However, if you like to solo a lot (which is always a good thing to do at least once in a while), you'll get total pickings out of whatever monsters may be carrying on them. You can decide what to bring and what not to bring, and it may go pretty fast, since Mages tend to kill creatures faster than others (due to high damage spells). During the downtime while you're waiting for mana and/or health to recover, it may be advantageous (depending on where you are and what you are doing) to run back to the nearest vendor to lighten your load. Also, you might get some pretty nifty items from doing your own solo work, especially if you venture bravely into instances or dungeons or places where high-value drops are a matter of public knowledge. This will provide you a large pool of cash to, as said above, pay for your surprisingly increasingly expensive training costs. --Froderick
You may also want to consider training a 1-handed weapon such as a dagger or sword (or both, if you can afford it) if you prefer to be able to hold an item in your off-hand too, but keep in mind the relative scarcity of caster daggers/swords in the early game.
If you find an offhand item that you really like, you should start looking for a dagger or a sword with good caster statistics. Ignore the damage/dps, as mages are not designed to melee, and if you need to do damage when OOM, a wand is usually a better choice. Both daggers and swords exist that have useful stats, but caster daggers are more common than caster swords in the early game.
See Mage Tactics for more advanced information on Mages, taking you beyond the first 10 levels.