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Arcane Brilliance: Building your Mage, part 2: PvP



Each week, Arcane Brilliance attempts to give Mages something to read. Immediately thereafter, Warlocks also get something to read, only their reading material is instant cast, applies a DoT, and can turn into an invincible demon from the nether-regions of Hell. Mages complain, and Blizzard responds by giving Arcane Brilliance a 2 second stun. The catch? It only works if the reading material crits, and only if the target is a frozen sheep.


Alright, it's Saturday, and by now you've hopefully had time to make the trip to Theramore or Stonard to pick up your new Portal and Teleport spells. If early, unconfirmed info is your thing, you've no doubt taken a look at the leaked WotLK Alpha talents and formulated your own opinions on what the future may or may not hold for Mages. If not, well, there's no time like the present. Go ahead, I'm not going anywhere.

All set? Good, because we have lots to talk about. Last week we discussed some basic, flexible talent builds you can use to get your Mage ready for raiding. This week, we're exploring the PvP side of things. After the jump, We'll go over a few templates you can use to begin building your PvP Mage, including my own Mage's spec, so be sure to click the blue text below this sentence. I mean, how can you pass up the opportunity to mock my spec and tell me what a noob I am? Get going...clicky, clicky!

We'll begin with the great-granddaddy of Mage PvP specs, the most widely used build out there, and for good reason.

Frost 17/0/44

Purpose:

Where to begin? The Frost tree was designed for PvP, and this build shows why. High damage output, high survivability, excellent control options, pretty Water Elemental, Shatter combos, the ability to make your own refreshing orcsicles and gnome cones...seriously, this is the PvP spec to beat. The whole point here is that this is the one reliable build in which a Mage can kill quickly and still avoid dying just as quickly. The 17 points spent in the Arcane tree are exclusively for Improved Counterspell, which is a must for any PvP build.

Pros:

Didn't I just list these? With this build, it's all pros, really. You have a plethora of options to freeze your opponent, keeping them away from your squishy body and allowing you to indulge in lots of lovely Shatter combos, you have your groovy Water Elemental, and the gorgeousness that is Ice Barrier. You also have Improved Counterspell, a PvP Mage's bread and butter. Arena PvP, especially, is all about survivability, control, and well-timed burst damage, and this spec offers all of that in spades.

Cons:

Other specs certainly provide higher damage output, but that's really all I can think of. In Arena, this spec is king, pure and simple.

Ways to tweak this spec:

This spec requires 17 points in Arcane to get Improved Counterspell, and the 44 points in Frost are really non-negotiable. The flexibility for this build is all in how you get there. There are multiple ways to switch talents around on the way to where you need to be. Just do what your personal taste and playstyle demand. Points can easily be swapped between throwaway talents like Magic Absorption, Magic Attunement, Arcane Impact, and Arcane Fortitude on the way to Improved Counterspell, and there are multiple ways to tweak the Frost side of things. Can't live without Ice Floes? Feel free to steal from Arctic Winds. Just mix and match until you're happy. There's a more in-depth analysis of this build over at our own Build Shop, so feel free to wander that direction if you want to learn more.

Frost 0/5/56

Purpose:

This build sacrifices Improved Counterspell for the better DPS and control options available by speccing deep Frost. It's probably more useful in Battlegrounds or world PvP, because of how indispensable Improved Counterspell is in Arena combat, but is a viable option, especially if you don't feel like spending 17 points in Arcane for one spell.

Pros:

This build doesn't force you to choose between things like Ice Floes, Improved Cone of Cold, Arctic Winds and Arctic Reach. You get them all. You have all of the control, survivability, and DPS options of the Frost tree, undiluted and at your fingertips. As an added bonus, you get a 10% chance to stun with your Molten Armor or the occasional Fire Blast.

Cons:

No Improved Counterspell. This is a big loss in Arena, so think long and hard on it before choosing this spec.

Ways to tweak this spec:

You don't have to spend points on Impact, and putting those 5 points in the Arcane tree to lower the chance your spells are resisted is a perfectly respectable idea. You can even choose to put all 61 points in Frost, for all I care. Frost it up, Frosty-McFrostsalot.

Fire 17/44/0

Purpose:

This is a Fire build with access to Improved Counterspell. Survivability is laughable, burst damage potential is exceptional. If you like burning things, this is the build for you. You will live three seconds or so in Arena, though, so make those three seconds hurt.

Pros:

You have a lot of fast, high-damage options here. With this build you are, essentially, a hand-grenade in a dress. With access to Dragon's Breath, Blast Wave, and Combustion, your Fire spells will all hit very hard, and crit very often, and do it against multiple targets. Improved Counterspell gives you some utility, while Blazing Speed and Arcane Fortitude provide a teensy smidge of survivability.

Cons:

That smidge is, indeed, teensy. This build is better served as a Battleground spec, providing you can find a nice tree to hide behind. In Arena, it simply doesn't provide enough survivability to be viable in the higher brackets. I know because this was my spec for a very long time. After languishing around the 1400 rating mark for a few weeks, I finally decided I liked Fire, I just didn't like it that much. In larger-scale battles, though, this spec can serve up some very large, meaty damage numbers, provided you can stay out of the enemy's crosshairs.

Ways to tweak this spec:

If you want to to go all-out glass cannon, you could always switch the points out of Blazing Speed and into Playing with Fire, but that's only a good idea in Battlegrounds, where you can avoid being hit for longer.

Fire 21/40/0

Purpose:

Ah, the standard PoM-Pyro spec. It's better to burn out than fade away, am I right? This spec provides what may be the best potential burst damage in the game, and used to be fairly popular in Arenas. Remember those days, anybody? Back before everybody and their second cousins had 8 thousand resilience a PoM-Pyro Mage could click his I-win button of choice and with a lucky crit or two, down his target in one big boom, leaving only a smoking pair of boots (or hooves) behind. Now, not so much. This spec can still be fun, though, and if you're extremely good, maybe you can have some success with it.

Pros:

This build is centered around one big burst of damage. In that respect, it really can't be topped. It does what it does better than any other build on any class in the game.

Cons:

But therein lies the problem. Once that one big burst is gone (and heaven help you if you pump that big burst into a pally bubble, or a Grounding Totem, or something), it's gone, and you've become just another soon-to-be-dead Fire Mage. For this build to work, you absolutely have to time that burst right, and it absolutely cannot be resisted. With resilience as high as it is now (the other day I took my Paladin's crappy 1550 rated team into Arena and ran into two guys with Season 3 shoulders and weapons. So much for Blizzard's ban-stick working), even in the lower brackets big bursts are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Arena combat is all about living longer than your opponent, and this build, like every other Fire build, simply doesn't live very long.

Ways to tweak this spec:

The points leading to Improved Counterspell and Presence of Mind in the Arcane tree can be rearranged to suit personal preference, as can several of the Fire tree talents. The hallmarks here are Imp. CS, PoM, Pyroblast, and Combustion. Make sure you get those talents, then adjust the spec to fit your preferred method of killing things.

All Trees 23/16/22

Purpose:

This build provides a little bit of goodness from all three trees. It gives you decent survivability, decent burst damage, and decent utility. It doesn't excel at any one thing, but for the Mage who wants to be able to do a little bit of everything, this is a build for them.

Pros:

This spec gives you Presence of Mind and Pyroblast for high burst damage, Improved Counterspell for utility, and multiple survivability options, including Cold Snap, Improved Mana Shield, Improved Blink, and Improved Frost Nova.

Cons:

You simply won't pack the punch of other specs with this build. Your burst damage won't be as high as it could be if you were specced for Shatter combos, or had a true PoM-Pyro Build, or a deep Fire spec. Your survivability won't be as high as it could be with a deep Frost build. Your control and utility are there, but again, a pure Frost build would provide more of both.

Ways to tweak this spec:

If you so choose, you could switch this around any number of ways. You technically only need 21 points in the Arcane tree, and the extras could easily go into something like Improved Scorch, or Improved Fire Blast. As long as you get Cold Snap, Presence of Mind, Pyroblast, and Improved Counterspell, you've got the essence of this build. Feel free to mess around with it as you see fit.

Arcane 45/16/0

Ok, this build is the one my Mage uses in Arena. It isn't for everyone, but it works for me. What it does, it does well, and it fits the way I prefer to play the game. Feel free to flame it, it certainly isn't the best build out there; in fact, I've never seen anybody else use it. Maybe that should tell me something, but I'm stubborn and I fear change, so I stick with it. My 2v2 companion is an Elemental Shaman, built for burst damage, so my build is intended to complement his, allowing us to power down one target almost immediately if things work the way they're supposed to.

Purpose:

This build is essentially a PoM-Pyro spec gone horribly wrong. Once I got going into that Arcane tree, I couldn't help myself. High burst damage is the hallmark here. I use instant cast spells exclusively, nothing with a cast time. I rely on crits and spell damage. I have taken all of the survivability talents in the Arcane tree, including Prismatic Cloak, Improved Blink, and Improved Mana Shield. My control options are Slow and Improved Counterspell. I begin with a Fire Blast, then follow it with an Arcane Power/PoM/Pyroblast/spell damage trinket, and pump out Arcane Missiles while Arcane Power and the trinket are still active.

Cons:

I burn through mana like nobody's business. It isn't even funny. The bottom line with this spec--and its biggest weakness--is that if my target survives my initial front-loaded burst, I'm essentially done. I can live for a surprisingly long time with this build (mostly because I Blink around like a crazy person) but my big burst is essentially spent after the first few seconds. I spend the rest of the match Counterspelling, sheeping, and trying not to die. This works for me, but probably not for most people. I'm not recommending this build to anybody, I'm just throwing it out there for the fun of it. Have your way with it, my fellow Magelings.

Ways to tweak this spec:

If you don't want the high damage talents in the Arcane tree, or Slow, well, this spec easily becomes a regular PoM-Pyro spec. That's essentially how it began, only I got tired of dying three seconds after stepping out of the tunnel. An argument can also be made for Empowered Arcane Missiles instead of, say, Arcane Potency here, since I use Arcane Missiles so often. Again, it's a matter of taste, and what works for you.

Mages aren't nearly as gimped in PvP as many in our community would have you believe. As long as you aren't facing off one-on-one against a Warlock, Mages can be very successful, even in the higher brackets of Arena combat. Just pick a good spec, learn it, love it, gear up for it, and hopefully you'll start seeing some victories. As with last week, I'd like to see some of your own personal PvP spec suggestions in the comments below. What works for you, and why?


Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our two-part look at Mage match-ups with other classes in PvP, or our recent look at the new caster gear in patch 2.4. If you're sick and tired of all this Mage-talk, there's a veritable treasure trove of guides and tips related to all of the other aspects of WoW over in the WoW Insider Directory. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

Filed under: Mage, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Classes, Talents, (Mage) Arcane Brilliance, Battlegrounds, Arena

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