High single target damage. Fire mages can dish it out. Their AoE damage is also decent although not as high as some other classes/specs.
The visceral satisfaction of hurling fiery boulders at your enemies. The compelling crackle of fire at your fingertips and the unmatched ability to set opponents ablaze is a really fun flavor.
The ability to react to hazards by moving fairly easily. Scorch is a baseline spell for fire and as such we have a baked in way of reacting to the need to move and keep casting.
Variable damage dealing that can feel a little out of your own control at times. It's important to mention that the RNG aspects of fire and its dependence on crit means that at times your DPS will soar sky-high as all the planets align and you get the perfect Combustion. Other times, you can be playing exactly the same way and just get a streak of bad luck. This has been evened out to an extent but it's still there. If the thought of this is frustrating to you, then fire might not be the best choice. You have to be willing to roll with the punches a bit.
So you've decided you're intrigued by a fire mage and you'd like to give one a shot. We'll take a quick look at your gearing, rotation, major spells, and how to make the most of your fire mage. You'll be setting things on fire in no time!
Things we won't discuss
Talents, glyphs and professions are easy to understand and have been covered exhaustively elsewhere. If you just want a spec that will serve you well without any discussion, I've put one together for you here. If you want to read more about the reasoning behind the choices, you can read about talents and professions here.
Your stat priority is pretty simple:
2. Hit (to 15% or just under)
3. Critical strike rating
4. Haste rating
As a fire mage, your most desired secondary stat is critical strike. You really like crit and can't get enough of it. When choosing gear, after you've got your hit at or near cap, focus on gear with crit primarily. Haste is also useful and Mastery is a distant third. Reforge Mastery to either hit (if you need more) or crit (you will always need more).
There's not much more that can be said about gems and enchants that isn't covered in a simple list. See here for a quick list of the options. Otherwise, keep in mind anything that increases your int and/or crit is the best call!
We're starting from the ground up and working our way towards the more complicated nuances of playing a fire mage. As you get used to playing, you can start incorporating more advanced maneuvers.
Beginner rotation (single target)
Try to maintain your Invoker's Energy buff by Evocating before a pull and once a minute thereafter. Make sure you have Molten Armor and Arcane Brilliance active.
Apply your bomb spell (Living Bomb or Nether Tempest) to whatever you are fighting. If there's more than one thing, put bombs on several things.
Start casting Fireball. When Heating Up procs, cast Inferno Blast. This should give you an instant cast Pyroblast. Cast it!
Your Pyroblast should give you a nice ignite on the target. Use your Combustion.
Keep casting Fireball and putting your bomb on the target. If you have to move, cast Scorch instead.
Don't let your Invoker's Energy buff drop off if you can help it! By now you should be getting the hang of the basic stuff.
Apply your bomb spell. Start casting Fireball. When Heating Up procs, cast Inferno Blast, but instead of casting that Pyroblast right away keep casting Fireball until you get another Heating Up. Cast Fireball again, then your Pyroblast, and hope that one of them will crit and upgrade your Heating Up to another Pyroblast.
Use Presence of Mind to cast an instant Pyroblast.
Acquire a method of tracking your Ignite DoT such as CombustionHelper. Make a conscious decision whether to cast Combustion now (how high is Ignite?) or to wait a few moments (can I get some more great crits to achieve a higher Combustion?)
By the time you look at this you should be used to the basic rotation and good at maintaining your bombs and Invoker's Energy. The advanced rotation includes a few twists you should incorporate to get the most out of your fire mage.
Use Mirror Image before a boss pull to make sure you don't pull aggro and whenever it's off cooldown afterwards.
Perform the rotation as outlined in the intermediate section, until you have a Pyroblast! and a Heating Up at the same time.
Cast fireball and use the following macro:
#showtooltip Alter Time
/cast Presence of Mind
/cast Alter Time
You should be able to cast several Pyroblasts before your Presence of Mind is consumed. At this point (or if you hit Alter Time again) you should be able to do the whole thing all over again and get a big ignite.
If there are enemies within ten yards of your original target, use Inferno Blast on the original target to spread your Combustion to some of them.
Now how do you set up your bars for maximum fire maging? Here are the spells you will want to have easy access to and effects you need to know about.
General mage spells and spells used as a fire mage
Alter Time - unique cooldown that can be used to increase DPS
Blink - teleport forward 15 yards
Cone of Cold - AoE damage effect and slow with a conal range
Evocation - restores mana and activates Invoker's Energy if talented
Frost Nova - freezes enemies in place for a short time.
Ice Barrier (Talent) - prevents damage
Ice Block - a short invulnerability, can be used to cleanse many DoTs (including Cauterize)
Ice Lance - seldom used instant cast
Invisibility - used to drop threat completely
Mirror Image - used to distract an enemy for a short time or to prevent from pulling threat Molten Armor - increases crit by [xyz]
Polymorph - transform an enemy or enemy player into a harmless sheep
Presence of Mind (Talent) - make any spell with less than ten second cast time instant
Time Warp - Increases melee, ranged, and spell haste by 30% for 40 seconds.
Fireball - your main nuke and the spell you'll cast the most often
Living Bomb or Nether Tempest - from the bomb tier and part of your main rotation
Inferno Blast - Guaranteed to crit and also spreads Pyroblast, Ignite, and Combustion to up to four enemies within ten yards
Scorch - less DPS than casting Fireball but useful for if you must move
Combustion - Cornerstone of fire mage DPS, essential cooldown
Flamestrike - Ground-based AoE
Arcane Explosion - Proximity based AoE centered on the mage's position
Dragon's Breath - Not part of an AoE rotation, but is a temporary disorient especially useful when you're soloing anything.
Making the most of your fire mage
A few things will help your enjoyment of playing a fire mage. For addons, I'd suggest CombustionHelper and Mage Nuggets. These have built-in timers and notifications for tracking two important things: The buff from Invocation and DoTs that contribute to Combustion.
As you become more comfortable, you can expand your play through the use of macros and custom notifications. Weak Auras 2 or TellMeWhen are especially useful for this and can help you maximize Alter Time use along with procs or let you know when an ability is ready. If you'd like to read more in-depth about the topics touched on here, you can delve into them in the excellent Icy Veins guide.
Playing a fire mage is a rewarding experience and a good mix of reacting to procs that still rewards careful planning. I hope you have a blast setting Azeroth ablaze! (Mostly the bad guys, preferably).