Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fire Mage Guide - 4.0.6 Edition

This is a new and updated version of my old fire mage guide that I wrote back at the end of Wrath. Fortunately, fire mages work pretty much the same as they did back then, so you who have read my old version will recognize alot of things. There have still been some small, but important, changes to how fire mages work which I will mention, also the glyphs/gems section is updated for Cataclysm of course.

Table of Content
- Introduction
- Talents
- Glyphs
- Stats
- Gems
- Rotation
- Resources

What role does the fire mage have? How does it differ from the other mage specs and what can you expect from playing a fire mage?
More than any of the other mage-specs, fire mage is about dot-damage. In fact it is so important that our mastery affects nothing else. Alot of fire mage talents focus around spreading this fire damage and getting increased stats when more than 2 targets are affected by our debuffs. What does this mean for our playstyle?

The ”problem” with fire mage used to be that doing aoe-damage is part of our core-mechanics and standard rotations. Some of our most important talents depend on us being able to do aoe-damage. Back in Wrath this was more of an issue, but in Cataclysm there are plenty of fights that will allow the fire mage damage to get to their full potential. Basically any raid boss has some sort of aoe component to the fight, which allow us to get full use of our talents and skills. However, even though this is alot less of an issue now, it still means that playing a fire mage means you have to learn how to keep track of more than one target to deal optimal damage and that you will deal less damage whenever you only have one target.
The other issue with fire mages is that they are heavily dependant on crit, which gives an ”rng” feeling to the class. Your damage output can vary greatly depending on your crit streaks. Increasing your crit will reduce the rng feeling of course, but because of how crit works (either you get one or you don't, unlike haste which always affects all your casts) this is something that may annoy and frustrate players at time. On the other hand this could also be a reason for great fun with the fire mage – dealing decent damage without crits and awesome damage with crits.

Fire mage is arguably the best mage spec for moving dps. We have several skills that work while running (Flamestrike, LB, Blast Wave, and Scorch) that are unique to our spec. Fire mages are heavy on the mana, but are also the only mage spec that can cast spells when completely oom, thanks to Improved Scorch. This adds another level of planning to the spec. Because of the fact that Blizzard have designed most raid bosses to work greatly with the fire mage fighting style, fire mages are a really strong class in raiding right now. Fire mages are fairly easy to learn but difficult to master, allowing for great depth and potential. If you enjoy a challenge that really pays off, fire mage is definitely the spec for you!

Because of the above-mentioned issues, there are also some issues to how we would want to place our talents. Since some talents actually require us to have multiple targets they are essentially useless at any time that we don't have multiple targets. This also means the loss of alot of synergy between talents. There is also some difference between speccing a raiding mage and an instancing mage (this isn't a guide for pvping mages though).

Main Tree
Tier 1
Master of Elements: Although mana has become less of an issue than it was some patches ago, it's still something we have to keep an eye on. Since we really don't want to use Spirit (read more about stats further down) our main income for mana and resources for mana management will be talents like this.
Burning Soul: Because Fire Mage is alot about throwing Fireballs, any cast time lost is dps lost. This all depends on how big an issue you taking damage is. In instances this usually is less of a problem but some boss aoe-mechanics also have spell knock-back mechanics for instance, so even if you don't get actively hit my something you might be passively.
Improved Fire Blast: This isn't a bad talent, but overall we use Fire Blast too little for it to be worth the points.
Tier 2
Ignite: CORE TALENT. You are useless as a fire mage without this.
Flame Power: 3% extra damage straight off is awesome. Exploding Fire Orbs means more aoe damage.
Blazing Speed: You shouldn't be hit by melee or ranged attacks in pve (and if you do in raids you're usually dead anyway). This is a pvp talent.
Impact: This talent is in synergy with the talent Pyromaniac (see further down). One of the biggest contributors to those awesome amounts of aoe damage that fire mages can push out.
Tier 3
Cauterize: Since dying always is the ultimate dps-loss, this is also useful in a pve-setting. Especially in raids where there is loads of aoe damage going around that is unavoidable, and as a mage you might not always be on top priority on the healers list. Less useful for instances, I would skip this talent if you don't raid.
Blast Wave: An aoe skill which synergizes with Improved Flamestrike and Pyromaniac but will still only be useful when there are several targets. No longer has the knockback effect.
Hot Streak: CORE TALENT. There is no point in playing fire mage without this.
Improved Scorch: The usefulness of this talent depends a little on the content you're playing. Less useful in instances in instances where the fights are short enough that you won't oom. As soon as you feel you can handle most boss fights in raids without ooming, you don't need this talent much. Otherwise this is a great talent for mana management.
Tier 4
Molten Shields: This could've been an interesting utility talent for extra movement. Unfortunately the Blazing Speed effect doesn't kick in until after 30 seconds or after your Mage Ward dissipates due to absorbtion, which might make it a little difficult to time properly to actually be useful in pve.
Combustion: CORE TALENT: When used correctly this is one of your most powerful damage dealing tools.
Improved Hot Streak: CORE TALENT: You won't do any damage without this.
Firestarter: Great talent for both instances and raiding.
Tier 5
Improved Flamestrike: Aoe-talent. Synergizes with Pyromaniac, but is only useful when there are multiple targets.
Dragonbreath: Even though it has a limited range, in current raid and instance content there are plenty of opportunities to use this. It is also a prerequisite for Living Bomb.
Molten Fury: Talents like these aren't testable against dummies, but that doesn't make them less good. Great overall damage increase, especially in raids where you can expect your target to be below 35% health longer than in instances.
Tier 6
Pyromaniac: Great talent when you learn how to handle your fire mage. Requires you to have dots up on several targets, which is possible for at least periods of time on most raid bosses.
Critical Mass: 15% extra damage to one of our most important skills is awesome. 5% extra crit to our targets is also good, but often applied by someone else in a raid.
Tier 7
Living Bomb: CORE TALENT. Don't even think about not taking this.

Off Trees
Arcane Concentration: This has become alot less useful since the reduction of mana cost made to several of our most important spells.
Netherwind Presence: Haste is one of our most important stats.
Piercing Ice: We want tons of crit and thus we want this talent.


I won't talk about them all, but the interesting ones (which aren't very many unfortunately):

  • Molten Armor – Is our strongest glyph.
  • Pyroblast OR Living Bomb – The Pyroblast glyph gets better the better gear you have. If you don't proc Pyroblast often I recommend Living Bomb instead (thanks to Justin R for pointing this out!)
  • Fireball – Increasing the damage on one of your core spells is a good thing.
None of the majors change your damage in anyway, so you are pretty much free to choose. Here are some recommendations;
  • Polymorph – If you ever intend to cc, this is a good glyph to have.
  • Evocation – Being able to self heal in some way is always useful, but remember that the mana component of Evocation still is the main goal of using it.
  • [Free to choose] – Any glyph you like.
None of the minors change your damage in any way so you are free to choose any you like. I'd go with Slow Fall, Armors and Conjuring. Arcane Brilliance is also a good glyph for raiding, if you need to rebuff during combat.

As you might have noted by now, there are four very important stats for a fire mage - Crit, Haste, Hit and Int (and spellpower). Which one is more important?

Hit: Our most important secondary stat. If we don't hit with our spells, there is no meaning in even casting them. Since we no longer have any talents that give hit, we now need 17% through gear (which includes enchants and gems).
Crit: Without any crit our damage falls like a house built of cards. Crit is the very foundation of fire mage dps.
Haste: More haste = more casts = more crits = more damage.
Intellect: Our most important stat overall. Try to avoid trading intellect for another stat if you can help it. We want our spells to do a lot of damage when they hit of course. Nowadays we get spellpower through intellect. Intellect also gives us crit!

Unlike in Wrath, haste and crit are about equally good. Whether you should aim at more depends completely on your current gear, which means that if you want to min max your gear you really have to turn to number crunching or using programs like Rawr to do the numbers for you. Basically, a good balance between the two is what you should aim for. Mastery on the other hand is currently considered the weakest secondary stat, and can safely be reforged into any other stat that you need. In order of importance;

  1. Intellect
  2. Hit (to 17%)
  3. Haste/Crit (Keep a balance)
  4. Mastery

Use the above priority list to reforge any lesser stat into a better one.

Following the above rules for stats these are the best gems for us. Going for the socket bonus is overall better now than it was in Wrath, but it still doesn't mean that you should always go for the bonus. A bonus of +10 stats is for example worth ignoring (and putting a pure intellect gem there instead), unless it is 10 intellect.

Blue - 20 intellect and 20 hit Veiled Demonseye, until capped.
Red - 40 Int Brilliant Inferno Ruby
Yellow – 20 intellect and 20 Crit rating, Potent Ember Topaz or 20 intellect and 20 haste rating, Reckless Ember Topaz.
Meta – Burning Shadowspirit Diamond.

What makes Fire Mages so much fun is the lack of a dull rotation or spamming of one skill. There will be plenty of Fireball casting, but the better your gear gets the more you have to react to procs and debuffs. To do optimal dps as a fire mage you have to follow a set of rules and keep track of your buffs and debuffs.

  1. Keep Molten Armor up.
  2. Keep Critical Mass debuff up (unless someone else already is)
  3. Keep Living Bomb up. DO NOT CUT IT! Reapplying Living Bomb before it runs out is basically useless. Rather miss a second than reapply too early. It is no use applying it to a target that will die before the debuff runs out.
  4. When Hot Streak is up, use it.
  5. When Ignite, Living Bomb and Pyroblast debuff are on your target, use Combustion. (There are addons to help you keep track of this. I just use DoTimers).
  6. Spam Fireball

Skills with certain rules;
Mirror Image: The best time to use Mirror Image depends a little on the fight. Simple testing seems to show that Mirror Images are affected by your permanent stats, like your hit and spellpower. I am still unsure whether they are affected by temporary stats like procs and buffs, they seem however to be unaffected by Bloodlust, regardless of if they are cast before or after.
Impact: How to properly use Impact is a whole school of thought in itself. The best way to use Impact is when you have strong dots on one target among several others. Use Impact to spread that damage to the other targets for great amounts of aoe damage. Remember that Living Bomb only is applicable to 3 targets now, meaning that if you have four or more targets and use Impact on a target with LB, it will remove LB from your current target.

Here are some great sites for more reading (if you have suggestions for more, give me a shout and I'll check it out!)
Elitist Jerks - Fire Mage Compendium


  1. One of my 2 dps chars is a fire mage (L67). I use to dps only every now and than because I rather heal or tank (tank with my L61 warrior only though). Point is that she rather easy grab aggro while she has quite a low output overall. The core spells are that slow she hardly score more than 1 hit on a mob before it dies but that strong that she grab aggro easily when the mob ain't the main tank target. I guess that I'm too slow in selecting and switching to gain decent output. Have to keep on working on that.

    You (and others) mention the Critical mass debuff which should up all the time. Maybe a stupid question but how to do that. Afaik it can't applied directly only indirectly with Pyroblast (the paintstaking slow aggro grabber I only use as solo opener or on Hotstreak) or Scorch. Does this mean I've to weave in Scorch to get Critical mass up?
    Same for combustion. I hardly us it because before I have Ignite and Pyroblast on a mob it's dead already. I only works on Boss fights for me sometimes when Hotstreak procs.

    Maybe you've some ideas/advises to improve my mage usefullness.

  2. @Asverze
    The problems your describe are common lowbie mage issues, and I wouldn't recommend playing fire before max level because of them. Casters have issues at lower levels overall, often because mobs don't live long enough for our spells to hit them, whatwith our non-existant haste and all. Frost is the best leveling spec for mages imo, both for instances and questing because of how their spells work - lots of instants, great burst and a pet!

    All these issues combined mean you have to be a little less picky for when you choose to use Combustion. The best places are still for aoe packs, but only if you have Impact up in which case you place LB and Combustion on a target, ignore whether Pyroblast and Ignite are up, and use Impact. You will still do good aoe damage. Same goes for bosses, throw up CM, LB and maybe a fireball or two (or Scorch, see below), then use Combustion regardless of what dots you might have up on the target (keep LB up of course). Still on max level, unless you have great gear you might just have to accept that you can't use Combustion at the best moment, because that moment might never come (it has happened to me plenty of times). It's a matter of judgement where you have to decide if the chance of you getting everything aligned is high enough to be worth the wait, or if it isn't. At low levels and in blue gear, it often isn't. It's still better to use Combustion at a non-perfect moment, than not at all.

    As for Critical Mass, you can either get it through Pyroblast as you say, but mainly through Scorch. Indeed you have to use Scorch in your main rotation for CM. Scorch doesn't deal alot less damage than Fireball, so it won't be a huge dps loss - in fact it will be an overall dps gain since you increase the crit chance of the rest of your spells by 5%.

    Again, the best way to improve yourself right now would be to switch spec to frost. If you want to stay true to fire, another suggestion could be to try to use Scorch more at lower levels, perhaps completely trade it for Fireball for trash. It's fast and mana efficient and can be used on the run. It might just be a better spell for those mobs that just die too fast for your fireballs, and might also help out on your aggro issue. Could be worth a try!

  3. Thanks for your elaborate answer <3.
    However I see that I've forget one tiny issue (not so tiny) I have with Combustion. A lot of time it gives the remark "Can't use that right now" after I hit it while it's not on CD. Can't find a clue or info about some sort of prerequest befor you can cast it however.

  4. In continuation of my last post...

    I solved the Combustion problem. It seems that Ingite is needed to be able to execute Combustion.

    I'll stick to being a Fire mage (I know I'm stubborn), I implement some of your remarks making things going a lot better.
    I mainly use Scorch and fire blast when off CD. Hotstreak and Impact get used when they procs. I try to use Living Bomb too but only when the mobs living long enough to get an explosion. A lot of tabbing is needed now to avoid out aggroing the tank especially when I crit regularly. I sparsly use Flamestrike and Blast wave and only on low level trash because things tend to get out of control when use those frequently.

    I'm working on my survivability now when getting attacked, by using Dragon's breath, Frost nova, Blink and procing Impact. When working I very hard to kill, but it needs coordination and quick reactions.

    I love it with when a tank is able to handle big pulls. Gives me the possibility to shine and burn everything to the ground. ;-)

  5. I know I am very late at replying on this. But I wonder, does this still apply? I thought about the Hot Streak-buff, and it covers Fire Blast. And you said that Fire Blast wasn't that much used, but Hot Streak is core talent? Confusing.