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Arcane Brilliance: Your mage's new spell rotations in Mists of Pandaria

Troll female mage
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we realize that everything we know is wrong, and learn how to make it right again.

Last time we had an expansion release, it was all about an actual Cataclysm, and when we made jokes about the end of the world and chaos descending and the impending apocalypse, those jokes were appropriate. This time around, we've got cuddly pandas and fun pet battles and ... I don't know ... Eastern philosophy? Jokes about impending apocalypses aren't as apt this time around.

Still, if any expansion has the potential to usher in mass chaos and confusion, Mists of Pandaria may be the one. Never before at any one time have our spellbooks and talent trees undergone such sweeping change. On Tuesday, the servers will go down, and when they come back up, the pre-expansion patch 5.0.4 will be in place (barring unforeseen maintenance mishaps), and everything we know about how to effectively wield magic will be completely different. Our current spell rotations will be gone, and we will need to go about the tricky business of learning our new spell rotations.

Which brings us to the reason I called you all together today. There's magical cake in the back of the room, and later on we'll be doing trust falls with warlocks where they fall and we hit them in the face with an Arcane Barrage. But for right now, our agenda has only one item on it: our new spell rotations. It's time we learned them.

All of these rotations are priority-based, meaning you will always use the first spell on the list first, if all the conditions exist. For example, Arcane Missiles is third on arcane's priority list. You will always use Arcane Missiles if the first two items on the list (Rune of Power and your bomb talent) are already up and if Arcane Missiles has procced (the condition). Then you go down the list, using everything if it is the highest priority spell available and the conditions for its proper use are met. (For instance, you won't want to use Ice Lance unless Fingers of Frost is up.)

Clear as mud, yes?

Arcane rotation

We're going to discuss these rotations as if you're at the new Mists level cap of 90 and have access to all the new spells and talents available at that point. And that's important to us as mages, since the choice we make for our tier 6 talent directly affects our spell rotations.

The most effective choice right now for arcane mages on most fights appears to be Rune of Power. You'll want to switch to Incanter's Ward on fights where there is sustained raid damage, but Invocation appears to be a non-viable choice for arcane mages at this point. It's incredibly difficult to use properly, and even when done right, it still doesn't stack up to Rune of Power. Evocating often enough to keep your mana up and spell power buff active simply interrupts your Arcane Charge stacking too much to remain competitive.

So on most fights, your default single-target rotation is a priority list and should look something like this:
  • Keep Rune of Power up at all times and make damn sure you're standing on one of your runes as often as humanly possible.
  • Your next priority is to keep your bomb talent of choice up and refreshed. If you selected Living Bomb, refresh it immediately after explosion. For Nether Tempest, refresh it just before the last tick. And if you took Frost Bomb, just recast it every time it's off cooldown.
  • Cast Arcane Missiles every time it procs.
  • Cast Arcane Barrage every time you have three to four stacks of Arcane Charge to wipe the stack. This will vary depending on your mana needs.
  • Cast Arcane Blast to build stacks of Arcane Charge.
Your aim with this rotation is quite different from what you're used to. You want to keep your mana pool as close to 100% as possible without ever being at 100%.

Your main cooldown is Arcane Power, and it should be used pretty much every time it is available. You'll also want to use any potions/trinkets in conjunction with this cooldown. After popping Arcane Power, your job is to spam Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles every time it procs, using your mana gem when your mana pool is around 80%.

Once Arcane Power runs out, you need to get your mana to near 100% and keep it there to maximize your damage. Modify your rotation to include Arcane Barrage, casting it as often as possible to rapidly regenerate mana, then shifting to casting it every three to four Arcane Charges to maintain your mana pool. One enormous difference from the current setup that you'll notice is that without any Arcane Charges stacked, Arcane Barrage actually does more damage than Arcane Blast. I know! Down is up, right is wrong, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

Use Mirror Image any time your images can attack the boss for the full 30-second duration. It isn't a very big DPS increase, so don't stress over it overly much.

Alter Time is a little trickier. For purely DPS-maximizing purposes, you should probably use it to add another 6 seconds of Arcane Power every time you can do so. The problem, though, is that Alter Time can be a literal lifesaver when saved for avoiding or mitigating specific encounter mechanics. Using it well will require a knowledge of each fight and knowing when it's safe to burn Alter Time for the extra 6 seconds of Arcane Power and when you're better off holding it in reserve for incoming nastiness.

Fire rotation

The tier 6 talent choice that appears most effective for fire is Invocation. For fights where sustained raid damage is in the cards, Incanter's Ward will be more effective. Rune of Power does not appear to be a good choice for fire as of this writing. This rotation will assume you have Invocation as your level 90 talent.

Your single-target rotation is priority-based, as follows:
  • Cast Evocation every time the 40-second duration for the 25% spell power buff is about to expire. Keep that buff up as near constantly as possible. Also, be sure to Evocate just prior to every pull so that the buff is up when the fight starts. (If the fight dictates you take Incanter's Ward instead of Invocation, forget about Evocation unless you need mana, and just make sure you cast Incanter's Ward every time it's off cooldown.)
  • Apply your bomb talent of choice as listed above in the arcane section.
  • Cast Pyroblast every time Pyroblast! procs.
  • Cast Inferno Blast every time it is off cooldown and Heating Up has procced. Also note that Inferno Blast is an automatic crit, meaning that casting it when Heating Up has procced will guarantee a Pyroblast! proc. So follow it with a Pyroblast. Then giggle with glee over the smoking corpse of the warlock you just killed. The giggling with glee is an important part of the rotation.
  • Spam Fireball.
Your main cooldown is Combustion. Proper usage of this DoT-combining mechanic is markedly simpler in Mists than it is now. It no longer takes Living Bomb into account, so the the only two DoT effects you need to consider are Ignite and Pyroblast. You'll want to use this spell every time it's available immediately after you get a big crit off a Pyroblast.

Alter Time offers the same conundrum as detailed in the arcane section. For purely DPS purposes, you'll want to use it in conjunction with a powerful trinket effect to extend that effect for another 6 seconds or after proccing Pyroblast! to get it back 6 seconds later. But again, it may be more useful to use it as a way to bypass troubling encounter mechanics than as a damage increase.

And Mirror Image is still a small damage increase cooldown and should be used every time it will be up and on target for the full 30-second duration.

Frost rotation

Invocation is also the most viable tier 6 choice for frost mages, with Incanter's Ward being situationally viable in fights where there is sustained incoming raid damage. Rune of Power is very close and can be a competitive choice depending on playstyle and fight mechanics.

Single-target rotation for frost is a priority list and should look like this:
  • If Invocation is your talent choice, use Evocation as often as needed to maintain the 25% spell power buff, as detailed above in the fire section, and cast it before the pull.
  • Apply your bomb talent of choice as listed above in the arcane section.
  • Cast Frozen Orb every time it comes off cooldown.
  • Cast Frostfire Bolt every time Brain Freeze procs.
  • Cast Ice Lance every time you have Fingers of Frost charges.
  • Spam Frostbolt.
Your main DPS cooldown is Icy Veins, which you will want to use whenever possible, combined with any trinket/potion cooldowns you might have. Just macro them all together like you do now.

Use Mirror Image and Alter Time as detailed in the fire and arcane sections, with Alter Time being most useful for DPS when used during an Icy Veins duration to give you another 6 seconds of that buff.

When the patch hits here in the next few days, all of these rotations will work, but you'll need to remove the tier 6 talent from the top of the list and you won't have access to Alter Time as a cooldown. Everything else is the same as listed here. Go hit a training dummy or a nearby warlock to try your new spells out, and then hit the official forums to praise the dev's genius/threaten to ragequit. Let's hear it for new things!

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. We have you covered for Mists of Pandaria info, including our recent mage talent spec guide, and our guide to glyphs. And be sure to check out our list of reasons to still love our mages after all these years.

Filed under: Mage, Analysis / Opinion, (Mage) Arcane Brilliance, Mists of Pandaria

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