1. Research your spec. I applaud you for coming here every week and putting up with my rambling nonsense, but there are just a few other places you should also be keeping an eye on. We all know I'm no number cruncher. In fact, numbers make my brain cry like Troy on Community. But thankfully, there are many others in the mage community who can look at a spreadsheet without blood bursting from their eyeballs. And in order to start improving our mage's DPS as quickly as possible, we need assistance.
I like to think of the number wizards of the Elitist Jerks community as nerdy cowboys. They're mathslingers of the wild west, their calculators slung low across their waists, never more than an instant away from being drawn and fired at any rogue damage algorithms that might want to start a ruckus.
EJ certainly isn't the only useful WoW website out there, but it's a good place to start. Its bank of collective knowledge is simply staggering, and because they are nerds, they perform their own swift and merciless oversight on each other, ensuring that the numbers presented are as correct as the internet is capable of providing.
Now, I am by no means suggesting to any of you that you should just copy/paste the first cookie-cutter spec out there. I'm just suggesting that perhaps you should use the constantly evolving wisdom of the mage community as a jumping-off point for your own experimentation. Research the specs that are considered accepted by the community at places like EJ, trust their judgment to get you started, then adjust and tweak to suit your needs.
The most currently accepted level 85 PVE cookie-cutter specs for each tree:
And again, these are not the final say on how you should spec. But our topic today is improving your DPS, and these specs are examples of tried and tested builds that you can start with. Take a look at your own build, see where it differs from the norm, and perform a bit of self-analysis. Try both builds. Tweak either as you see fit. Which one provides you the most consistent damage and why? It'll take some time and effort, but optimizing your spec to fit your own particular needs and playstyle but still provide you with the highest possible DPS is the first and most important step in making you the best mage you can possibly be.
All of which brings us to the next item on our agenda:
2. Hit the training dummies. And hit them as hard as you possibly can. They're an important resource as you climb the damage output ladder, and it'd be silly to let them go to waste.
Before you begin any sort of training dummy regimen, you need to make sure you have a good damage meter up and running so that you have an accurate readout of the actual numbers you're putting out. I recommend Recount. Download it and install it.
Now put your spec tweaks to the test. Focus on cleaning up your rotation, both your standing-still rotation and your movement one. Pay attention to the numbers you're putting out, experiment with different rotations and talent builds, and try to figure out which of each puts out the best numbers for you most often.
Now, I understand that nobody wants to spend all of their leisure time practicing. You want to get in and blow stuff up that actually drops loot. Still, if you take at least some time in a static environment, maybe while you're waiting for your raid to form up, you will notice an improvement and get a better handle on your ideal spec and spell rotation. It's absolutely worth doing.
3. Optimize your gear. This is the part of our program where spreadsheets come into play. Programs like Rawr can be indispensable when it comes down to fine-tuning your gear loadout and the ways in which you can customize your stats via glyphs, gems, enchants and reforging. I'll fully admit that I'm hopeless when it comes to determining which stat is most effective at which gear level when stat A is higher than stat B and stat C is at the semi-soft cap and the wind is blowing out of the southeast and I'm filing as head of household but have two dependents. That's why I use a simulation program to do the heavy lifting for me.
Is the information a program like Rawr gives you always going to be 100% infallible? No. But as with every other useful resource at our disposal, it's a damn fine place to start.
Plug in your current setup, and see where you might benefit from a gem swap or from a reforge. Regardless of playstyle, your enchant, gem and glyph choices can dramatically affect your damage potential, and you may need a bit of help in figuring out ways to raise your own DPS ceiling. And as before, make a return trip to training dummies and see what the actual implications for your DPS bottom line might be for any changes you make.
Simulations aside, a good rule of thumb with mage stats is to always focus on intellect, even at the expense of socket bonuses in most cases. Stack intellect, and use Rawr to help you with the trickier stats.
4. Integrate useful addons. It might seem as if I'm recommending you rely almost exclusively on outside assistance -- but hey, are you a walking calculator? The information these addons provide you with is readily available in the game already, but the default interface and our feeble human brains are simply inadequate for presenting that information in a useful way. Hence, addons.
Recount The ubiquitous damage meter.
MageManaBar Inordinately useful to arcane mages for taking some of the guesswork out of the Mana Adept meta-game.
CombustionHelper Almost essential for fire mages trying to nail that perfect Combustion.
Quartz A much more useful replacement for the default casting bar, Quartz takes things like server lag into account and provides you with a more accurate display of when your spell will actually go off.
Feel free to include any other mage addons in this admittedly short list that you find help you reach your full potential. None of these are going to kill that warlock for you, but they might help you make him explode that much quicker.
5. Learn the fights.
Even with every single aspect of your mage's gear and talent build tuned to perfection, if you don't have a working knowledge of each encounter you're be going into, your DPS will suffer. Research the fights. Learn what's expected of you, where and when to move, and which mage spec is ideal for each situation. Bring along the right consumables, and carry any alternate gear or extra glyphs that might help from fight to fight.
Each encounter is different, and you can turn to the community or perhaps even the people in your own raid for advice on which spec to take into which fight. Make certain you've gotten in some quality practice with any spec you might be called upon to use.
Perfect your skills, your stats, your addons, and then make sure you have all the knowledge you need to be successful, and your mage will be better for it. What advice do you all have for those of us who aren't topping the damage meters in every fight?
Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Start out with our recent beginner's guide to being a mage, then check out our three-part State of the Mage columns on arcane, fire and frost. Don't forget to look at some of the addons your mage should probably be using.