9 Oct 2010

The Mage 4.0 Compendium

The game of Warcraft is changing. In the next few weeks the first of a series of patches will be pushed to the live severs. The first of these patches (4.0.1) will bring with it the core changes to all classes, as well as various UI and interface changes.

This guide to the key mage changes is intended to smooth your way into 4.0 and beyond, including making your first steps into Cataclysm. It should also help you with being able to raid during the two months before the expansion is released.

There are however a couple of key things that aren’t covered as part of this guide.

  • This isn’t designed for minmaxers. There’s not been a huge amount of numerical analysis so far on optimal builds and glyphs. As these optimisations come out I’ll ensure the guide is updated.
  • I haven’t included looking at the new racial abilities. I’m not convinced that they’ve been finalised, but I’m not expecting people to swap racials until 85 raiding kicks off.
  • I’m also not covering rotation changes. For the most part things are still the same, although Frost has gone through more significant alterations. Arcane and Fire mages used to Missile Barrage/Hot Streak procs should find things largely unchanged
  • Although there may be some usefulness for PvP mages here, I’m going to focus on PvE for most of this guide.

We’re all learning a lot as we work through the class changes, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try out radical ideas. Share any interesting findings you get with other mages by posting about it on the Mage forums.

Key Stat Changes

Update: I’ve just published a new article on Mage Stat Priorities in 4.0 to supplement this guide.

The biggest change to Mage stats is that Spirit is no longer useful. Molten Armor no longer uses Spirit, instead providing a flat 3% crit boost. Hit talents and racials are also gone, meaning that you’ll need to get the full 17% (446 hit rating) from gear alone.

Intellect is now the key stat for mages. More intellect means a larger mana pool, but it also means more spellpower and spell crit. Each point of intellect (including base) is a point of spellpower, making gear upgrades easy to work out.

Mana conservation is more important in Cataclysm, mainly due to the lack of mana regen we used to get from Spirit. As a result, making sure you have a large mana pool and use spells efficiently is an important habit to get into. A fire mage with a high crit rating can burn through their mana pool incredibly quickly. Think smartly on spell usage and mana costs.

The new Character pane will make all of these stat changes easier to understand. Spell crit, haste and hit ratings are all shown, together with their percentage values. It’s fairly easy to be able to swap gear in and out and see what effect it has on your stats.

Check Your Gear

The key difference you’ll notice when looking at your gear in 4.0 is that there are no longer any spellpower bonuses on armor. Crit, hit and haste rating should still remain. Weapons and some trinkets are exempt from this change, particularly where a proc or on use effect is involved.

In the main, mage tier set gear should be purged of all spirit. Most items aimed at warlocks and mages will probably have been re-itemised as well. Other gear that has Spirit on it can be reforged to halve the amount of spirit and gain a more meaningful stat.

On the subject of reforging, I would suggest moving points to hit only where needed and focusing on crit and haste otherwise. It’s likely that you’ll need to make some gem changes, so try and introduce hit with those if possible.


The great news is that we’ll only need minimal regemming for 4.0 A large number of gems will be automatically converted over to new ones that are just as useful.

There’s a very handy conversion list for all gems over at Revive and Rejuvenate.


Most weapon and armor enchants should still be fine, although it may be worth sweeping over them just to make sure. Generally mages tend to go for spellpower enchants, which are still present in 4.0. If you’re using the Sanctified or Brilliant Spellthreads you may want to swap them for the Sapphire or Master’s ones.


One of the biggest changes in 4.0 is the redesigned talent trees. Talent points are now awarded once every two levels, meaning that at 80 you’ll have 36 points to spend. From 81 to 85 you get a point per level, putting the final cap at 41 points.

You’re also locked in to a particular tree until you’ve spent 31 points in it, leaving 5 points to “splash” into the other two trees at level 80. I’ve included a separate list of suggested splash talents at the end of the section.

Your core tree brings with it a few key bonuses. You get a flat 25% spell damage bonus when using spells in the school you specialise in. There’s also a specialist spell for each tree: Arcane has Arcane Barrage, Fire has Pyroblast! and Frost has a permanent Water Elemental. The specialist Mastery bonus is also different for each tree, but relies on the Mastery stat. This new stat relies upon Mastery bonuses being present on gear which won’t emerge until Cataclysm.

This time round the trees are a much greater mix of essential and utility talents. You’ll probably find that there are talents you’ll want to take as well as ones that would be nice to have. It all depends on your own individual playstyle, and you’ll probably want to experiment. As a result, I’ve split each tree into Core and Optional talents.

I’m also going to strongly suggest that if you don’t play Frost already that you consider getting a secondary spec. Levelling as a mage in Cataclysm is punishing work, but the permanent water elemental and Ice Barrier take away a lot of that pain.


The core Arcane spec will feel very familiar, with a selection of talents designed to burn targets down quickly. The playstyle remains largely unchanged as a result, with a few welcome additions. Improved Arcane Explosion is now much more interesting as an AoE choice, with the reduced threat being much more tank friendly. The Improved Mana Gem is lifted from the popular Tier 7 armor set bonus, providing a nice DPS boost when you need it.

There’s no real need to take the optional Arcane talents, as the core talents will use up all of your 31 points. That said, if you find yourself doing a lot of counterspelling you might find these talent choices rewarding.


Fire’s core talents are all about making use of Hot Streak procs to cast Pyroblast! instantly. There’s also a lovely AoE combination available by using Blast Wave and Improved Flamestrike together. Be warned though, Flamestrike eats through mana very quickly. The remaining talents are there to encourage mana regen and boost single target DPS.

The optional talents provide a fair amount of choice. Cauterise can save your bacon if you take a bad hit, especially if you hit Mage Ward, Mana Shield or Iceblock quickly enough to avoid burning to death. Pyromaniac also plays well with Flamestrike and Impact, particularly in add-heavy boss fights. Improved Scorch and Firestarter go hand-in-hand if you fancy trying out Firedancing. Impact and Improved Fire Blast are also a good combination, but again rely on particular encounters.


I’d be the first to admit that I’m not completely familiar to the frost playstyle, but if you’re looking for a refreshing change with survivability oozing from every pore then this is the spec to go for. In Cataclysm it’s no secret that mobs hit like a truck, or possibly two trucks rushing together in order to make a thinly spread mage sandwich. If you’re not playing this spec already then get a second spec, go frost and practice playing. It’ll remove a lot of frustration when levelling.

Frost has much more of a reactive and priority based cast sequence than using a fixed rotation, although the optimal sequence is still being worked out. The new UI enhancements really help out in signalling when abilities are available to be consumed. Overall, the spec is all about proc management and making the most of chilled or frozen targets. The core talent selection reflects this.

The optional talents are around further mob management including bolstering AoE effects. Shattered Barrier and Reactive barrier would be ideal for PvP or solo questing, but might not be a priority until the expansion releases.

The Splash

One of the nice things about the talent tree redesign is that most of the useful general purpose talents have been moved right to the top, making them easy to splash into once 31 points have been spent in the main one. The following talents are all worth considering as splash candidates depending on what you feel you need. As always, you might feel you want to experiment with your choices here.


A further tier of glyphs is being added in 4.0, making Prime, Major and Minor the three types available. You’ll also be able to learn all the Mage glyphs and swap them around easily, instead of having to buy fresh glyphs every time. The only other change is that to overwrite an existing active glyph you’ll need to use Vanishing Powder before another one can be inserted.

Prime glyph choices are going to be unique for each spec, and will have some bearing on your own chosen playstyle. The most critical one is deciding which armour you’re going to use – Mage Armor for improved mana regen or Molten Armor for improved spell crit. Whichever you go for, one of your Prime slots should be this.

Fire Prime Glyphs have a choice. Both Fireball and Frostfire Bolt are on almost level pegging for DPS at the moment, although Fireball will probably have the edge at level 80. It is likely though that as your Mastery increases at 85 that you’ll want to swap to glyphed Frostfire Bolt for the additional DoT component. Your last choice is between Living Bomb and Pyroblast. I would probably suggest Living Bomb, but it entirely depends on how often you can get Hot Streak to proc.

Frost Prime Glyphs are also a little tricky. Deep Freeze and Frostbolt would seem to work well together, but the Deep Freeze debuff can only be applied to unstunabble mobs, making it worthless for raiding (Frostbolt on it’s own remains worthwhile) . Other than that, Ice Lance and Frostfire Bolt could also be good candidates

Arcane seems to be the easiest choice of them all when looking at prime Glyphs. Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles are the obvious choices here. Rounding off the set, Mage Armor is likely to be chosen over Molten Armor, but check first to see how far your mana stretches.

Major Glyph choices are far more straightforward. The first one to consider is Arcane Power, Blast Wave or Ice Barrier depending on your spec. Following on from that, Evocation and Polymorph are great utility talents to help your healers out and help maintain crowd control.

Minor Glyphs are also fairly straightforward. Armors will mean that you can buff Arcane Intellect/Brilliance and your armor buff at the same time and they’ll keep the same duration. Slow Fall gets rid of annoying reagent requirements. Mirror Image is more cosmetic than anything else, and could be swapped for Monkey or Penguin if preferred.

A bumper list of glyphs for all classes is available on Jaded Alt. There’s also further discussion of Mage Glyphs over at Mischief, Magic and Rocket Science.


As you can see, there’s an awful lot of changes to consider, analyse and adjust to. There’s also the balance between speccing for 4.0 while still raiding Wrath content, yet still providing enough versatility to be able to cope with levelling when Cataclysm hits the shelves. To this end, the Dual Spec facility will be incredibly useful.

It’s also important to test and feed back on the suggestions in this guide. Feel free to describe your experiences and findings either in the comments here or in the Mage Forums. The more input there is, the more that guides like these can be refined and improved upon. You’re also welcome to ask questions about the current beta and patch 4.0, or to make your own suggestions.

Like this? Try these other related posts:

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30 Responses to The Mage 4.0 Compendium

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Mage 4.0 Compendium | Mana Obscura -- Topsy.com

  2. Larísa says:

    Yay you! My begging for this finally paid off!
    Larísa recently posted..One week of shutting up or at least trying toMy Profile

  3. Strathias says:

    Thanks for this guide. Very good information, and to the point. I have to get back onto the PTR and test some stuff out before this drops possibly next week!

    • Gazimoff says:

      Thanks, I’m glad it was useful to you. It’s worth trying out stuff on the PTR if only to familiarise yourself with the new changes. The UI changes in particular are worth having a look at, particularly the built in power auras.

  4. Prelimar says:

    i have bookmarked this so i can come back later and digest it more fully post-cataclysm, because a lot of it is frankly over my head right now. i haven’t followed the specifics as closely as i thought, because (for instance) this whole idea of “reforging”… i had no clue. how did i miss that? i’m completely gobsmacked. thank you so much for all the work you’ve put into this. it’s really just fantastic.

    • Gazimoff says:

      The important thing to bear in mind is that although a lot of this is related to Cataclysm, it’ll be implemented as part of the next content patch which will probably arrive in a few weeks. Don’t leave it too long!

      If there’s anything that I can help with by going into more detail then let me know. I have an 80 premade mage on the beta, so I’m happy to test things out for you.

      • Prelimar says:

        ack, i didn’t realize it could all start coming so quickly! my background downloader’s running this AM (oct. 11), so tomorrow might indeed be a patch day…. i feel like i need to do some intensive cramming for an exam i forgot about, lol

  5. jay says:

    One thing i forgot to mention. For the two months of raiding, if people are still pushing for kills a cheap way to hit the hitcap. is through food. The usual stuff available through fishing or otherwise.

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  7. Angelya says:

    You star 🙂 what a great post! Thanks for the link too 😀
    Angelya recently posted..BA Shared Topic- Whats in a NameMy Profile

  8. Tillemon says:

    I don’t think the Deep Freeze glyph will be used in PvE since it doesn’t apply an effect (the stun) to bosses, but instead does a truckload of direct damage to anything that can’t be stunned. I expect it will be a useful glyph in PvP though.

    The options for PvE frost are Molten Armor, Frostbolt, Ice Lance, Frostfire Bolt, in that order (from Lhivera’s post here).

    • Gazimoff says:

      I think it depends on how the rotations end up falling out. I know Lhivera’s planning to do another pass of the data with several updates, which I’ll pull through once they’re released.

      On the one hand, there’s no one spell that you’re going to be constantly spamming, making it tricky to line up a glyph based on the spells you’ll be using most often. On the other hand, being able to get a 20% damage bonus every 30 secs does sound tempting.

      The biggest issue is how sticky it is. If it’ll stay as a debuff on bosses even though they’re immune to stun, then it could be worthwhile. If they just bounce the effect as immune, then I agree it’s a waste of time and Frostbolt/Ice Lance would be more suitable.

      Let’s hope that Lhivera comes back with more results soon 🙂

      • Tillemon says:

        Deep Freeze doesn’t put a debuff on the (unstunnable) target, it just hits for a truckload of damage. That’s how it worked before, and I can confirm that it is still working the same way post-patch. The Deep Freeze glyph is for non-raid use only.

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  10. Shingwa says:

    Thanks so much! Save me hours and hours of painfully forum trolling 🙂

  11. Loe says:

    Is the Frostfire Orb worth it in a lvl 80 spec since we won’t be spamming Frostfire Bolt. Would it not me more suitable to build into that when you learn Fire Orb?

    • Gazimoff says:

      You make a very good point. I’ve trimmed it from the list of optionals for the Frost tree, as there’s absolutely no point having it without the Fire Orb spell. Thanks for the feedback!

  12. Lynne says:

    Let’s say you have plenty of hit (I do, hemming for it is pointless). What blue/purple gem should be used instead of veiled dreadstone? I have been considering mysterious dreadstone but I am not sure how useful spell penetration actually is. Still, there aren’t a lot of other choices…

    • Gazimoff says:

      I’ve seen some experiments being done today that suggest gemming for hit and reforging for mastery can work very well. I’ve not had much chance to test this out myself, but it could be a great way of getting stat balance.

      I’m going to try and find out just how far it’s worth pushing this line of thought – just do this on Dreadstones, or go the whole hog and rip out the int/haste ametrines as well. As soon as I find out more on this, I’ll update the guide.

      • Sally says:

        ^ this. I posted on the forums what I did that worked well for me, but I’ll repost here:

        -All purified dreadstones were changed to be +10 int and +10 spirit. Spirit is now (as stated by blizzard) intended to be a healer stat only, on heal items. Purified dreastones should be changed to veiled dreadstones (+10 int and +10 hit).

        -The stats are now shown broken down by melee/caster/etc. To see your hit, make sure you are looking under ‘spell’ and not under melee; it is different for the two. Under spell, you need to have 17% to be capped in raids now that we no longer have hit from talents. It will be a little bit less with certain classes in the raid, so have an item with a little less hit on it ready to swap out.

        -In order to reach hit cap, I changed all my purified dreadstones to veiled dreadstones and this gave me about +50 hit. It also gave me several SP bonus’ on items since some gem sockets/colors changed. It eliminated all my bonus spirit. There wasn’t really a better choice for a blue gem, so I figured I’d do this and eliminate hit elsewhere for another stat.

        -I then reforged so that any item I had with hit on it lost some hit to gain mastery.

        -I swapped back to the t10 set pants which have hit on them and are just about as good as what I was wearing before (crafted) for the purpose of the new patch. I pretty much crafted them to eliminate hit, but now that I need hit, it was alright to swap back. I am now wearing the full 5 piece t10.

        -Any item with spirit on it, I reforged to lose spirit and gain mastery.

        -For prime glyphs I took living bomb and pyroblast (still need to get fireball- but was only seeing it as a major glyph, had trouble finding it as a prime). For majors I took fireball, evocate and polymorph. The minors aren’t important, but I kept slowfall, arcane intellect and then took the new polymorph monkey spell.

        -After these changes, my hit was at 17.12%. Mastery was at 23% or something like that. SP is at around 3100, haste is at 808 and crit is at 43%. I definitely took a hit on some stats, but that’s what happens when things change I suppose.

        After doing that and updating addons, I ran H-HoR and H-HoS. In Halls of Stone I pulled 6k using the fire spec I listed above (with the following splash talents selected: Arcane Concentration, Piercing ice) and could pull 9k or so on bosses. In HoR I pulled 5.5k with around 8k on bosses. I used to be able to pull much more on bosses, up to 17k or so, because of the great burst damage with arcane. It’s looking like that isn’t going to happen anymore, but hopefully my dps will consistently be higher– and be more consistent in general.
        Sally recently posted..Day EightMy Profile

    • Sally says:

      I wouldn’t suggest gemming for spell pen as that’s really a PvP stat. None of the other blue gems are looking great, imo. I was in the same situation as you, so I swapped to the veiled dreadstones and then reduced my hit by reforging hit into mastery, haste or crit. In my case, I reforged to mastery just to see how it would impact my dps. After the raid tonight I’ll report back. 🙂

  13. liam says:

    hi there i was reading this ad i was wondering if u have a perfect arcane mage skill tree for raiding and love the info u have gave me upto now tyvm

  14. Rivs says:

    Great Guide Gaz, that’s why you’re the Mage’s mage. 😉
    Rivs recently posted..Patch Day BluesMy Profile

  15. Alysson says:

    Thanks so so so much for posting this so promptly! There are so many changes going over every class its been insane trying to desipher it all! Thanks again!

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  18. Shatterproof (or not as the case may be?) says:

    Thank You very much for the posting – really helped me a lot, been struggling to find a mage build since patch. Still trying out rotations, but the build have helped – big thank you