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Arcane Brilliance: PvPing as a Fire Mage after 3.1

Christian Belt

Each week Arcane Brilliance examines the magical majesty of Mages, and usually makes fun of the wimpy whininess of Warlocks. See that? That's some crazy alliteration right there. Also, I'd like to call attention to the fact that Arcane Brilliance called Warlocks whiny. Oh, snap! Coming from a column about Mages, that has to burn, right? And no complaining in the comments section, Warlocks. Arcane Brilliance pokes good-natured fun at you every week. Don't act surprised.

I know what you're thinking. Fire? In PvP? When you buy the game, doesn't it say right there on the box: "Embark on epic quests. Form powerful alliances. Engage an ever-changing world. Just for the love of God, don't take a Fire Mage into PvP"? If I remember right, I think it does.

When I first installed this game on my computer about four years ago and quested my zombie Mage all the way to level 10, the first talent point I ever spent was in the Fire tree, and I then spent the next sixty levels happily setting things ablaze. I discovered PvP somewhere around level 45, and queued my Fire Mage and his mismatched greens that probably had agility and strength on them up for an Arathi Basin battleground. One killing blow and about 37 deaths later, I rematerialized next to the battlemaster in Undercity, uncertain and confused, but undeniably exhilarated. I proceeded to take my Fire Mage into many more battlegrounds, discovering a great many things in the process, including the value of hiding behind trees, and the wonderful things Blast Wave could do to large groups of Alliance in Alterac Valley. I considered myself an Undead hand-grenade, charging into crowds and blowing up as often as I could. My average life-span was approximately 6 seconds, but they were always a glorious six seconds.

It wasn't until I tried a Frost spec at level 70 that I realized just how ineffective I'd been.

As a Frost Mage, I had multiple tools at my disposal to help me survive far longer than six seconds. I could snare, root, and sheep opposing players to my rotted, shriveled heart's content, keeping them at a safe distance while I hurled ice their way. I eventually went back to my beloved Fire spec, but did so with a heavy heart (yes, still rotted and shriveled), knowing that I was losing a great many PvP tools.

Fire Mages have never been designed with PvP in mind. Even now, at a point in the game's existence when Blizzard is doing their utmost to make sure absolutely every class and spec is balanced around PvP viability, the Fire Mage stands out as one of the least PvP-oriented specs still around. Though the damage potential is certainly there, the Fire tree simply doesn't offer much by way of survivability or control, and in PvP, survivability and control are king.

This lack of control and survival options makes taking a Fire Mage into Arena combat a painful proposition. There are certain situations in which a Fire Mage can be effective in Arena, but in general, the close-quarters/high burst nature of Arena combat plays too much against Fire's strengths and in favor of its weaknesses.

Still, there is a place for the Fire Mage in PvP, a place where they can truly shine, and that place is in the battlegrounds. Large-scale combat allows Fire Mages to do what they do best: blow multiple things up real good. Simply put, the more people there are to kill, the more a Fire Mage will kill them. Okay, that sounds stupid, but just go with it.

Talent build

Fire + Icy Veins 0/56/15

This is the only semi-widely-used Fire PvP spec that I am aware of, though you can certainly mix and match a bit within the Fire tree. Adapt it as you see fit.

It maximizes your AoE capabilities, and delves into the Frost tree for the awesomeness of Icy Veins. Your Fire Blast will pack the punch it should, and Impact allows it to deliver a controllable stun/interrupt, as we discussed last week. If you can live long enough for it to proc, you've got Blazing Speed as an escape tool, and Firestarter provides you with instant Flamestrikes.

This build is designed around massive AoE damage, and lots and lots of Hot Streaks. The idea is to take your frail little Fire Mage into the thickest part of the combat, and basically blow yourself up in spectacular fashion. You may only have a few seconds to live, but if you can convince a healer in your group to throw a few hit points your way (or if nobody notices you right away), you can wreak an amazing amount of destruction before you go to that great AoE rezzer in the sky. Your crits will compound upon themselves, leading to more and more crits, you'll be able to throw out multiple short-cast or instant-cast Pyroblasts against single targets, and everybody else will feel every bit of your Blast Waves/Arcane Explosions/Dragon's Breath/Flamestrikes. Assuming you don't die first.


  • Distance is your friend.
Almost all of the problems Fire Mages run into tend to come up when the opposing players, you know, start attacking them. In Arena combat, it's almost impossible to stay at max range, but in battlegrounds, it becomes a more viable strategy. Stay at range and blast away. Use Frostfire Bolt and rank one Frostbolts to slow down enemies who start your way, and only get close when there are no other options, or when a crowd forms and you want to blow it up. Which leads us to our next tip...
  • ...When a group of enemies come together, kill them.
The best places for this are the various bottlenecks in the battlegrounds and the courtyard in Wintergrasp. When you see several enemies standing around in the same general area, you should consider wading in and set them on fire.

This is especially fun in Wintergrasp, when you have the tenacity buff. Run your Mage into the courtyard and start with a Living Bomb, followed by a Blast Wave. Run a bit farther in and set off an instant-cast Flamestrike. Arcane Explode a few times, then Dragon's Breath everyone in front of you, and follow it with another insta-Flamestrike. By now, you should be running low on mana, and probably health, but hopefully a few corpses are piling up around you. At the very least you've ticked off an enemy healer or two. When a Hot Streak procs, throw out a Pyroblast at your single target of choice.

Look at a large crowd as an opportunity. The more enemies there are, the more damage you can do.
  • Use your survivability options, such as they are.
I know you don't have many, but use what you have. Unless you're in full-on "human-hand-grenade" mode, make effective use of your defensive tools.

Blazing Speed is unpredictable at best, but when it procs, make sure you don't waste it. Scrolling combat text mods can help you notice these procs. When you see Blazing Speed pop up, it's time to run. You need to get as much distance as you can before your opponent can reapply a root or snare. Sprint for a column or pillar or something, and get out of LoS. If you don't have any DoTs on you, throw out an Invisibility and try to get to a place to Evocate. Do what you can, but do something.

Molten Shields makes your Fire and Frost ward spells highly effective, so make use of them. When you find yourself under attack, ask yourself a quick question: "Are they using Fire spells or Frost spells against me?" If the answer is "yes," throw up the appropriate Ward spell. Not only does this mitigate incoming damage, it has a good chance of supplying you with outgoing damage. Don't forget to use it.

As with other Mage specs, use Ice Block as a way to stall death and provide an opportunity for your healer to help you out, or as a way early in a fight to remove DoTs. Frost Nova is still an effective way to gain distance, and Polymorph is still a great CC spell.
  • When you're near death, you're at your best.
Yes, for some reason, Blizzard seems to want Fire Mages to teeter on the brink of death as much as possible. Why else would they have given us a talent like Fiery Payback? I have no idea why Blizzard thinks this talent is a good idea, but whatever. It's here, we have it, we might as well use it.

When death becomes imminent, do everything in your power to stave it off. Ice Block to force your opponent to switch targets, then Frost Nova and Blink to relative safety. Three things happen for you at 35% or less health. You know, besides dying.

First: Your incoming damage is reduced by 20%, meaning that instead of it taking your opponent 1 second to finish you off, now it will take them a full 1.2 seconds. Awesome.

Second: Your opponents now have a 10% chance of being disarmed when they attack you. This doesn't proc often enough to count on, but when it does, it can be a lifesaver.

Third: Your Pyroblasts all have a cast time of 1.5 seconds. The cooldown is increased, meaning that you can still only cast one Pyroblast every five seconds, but you can throw them out in the same amount of time it takes to cast Scorch, then move on.

This means that when you reach that 35% threshold, your strategy should change entirely. Move and cast, move and cast, and use those 3.5 extra seconds to throw out instant cast spells: Mana Shield to stay alive, Fire/Frost Ward if the situation calls for them, Blink to gain distance, Frost Nova to root the Rogue that's stabbing you in the face, Fire Blast to do some damage and hopefully stun your opponent, Blast Wave to knock multiple targets, Living Bomb, you name it. If you get low on health and healing isn't an option, change your mindset and make that Rogue sorry he ever stabbed you in the face. Yes, you'll die before long, but at least you'll leave a flaming Rogue behind. And at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that setting Rogues on fire is what's really important.
This isn't so much a tip as it is a fawning drool-fest over what has turned out to be a really fantastic PvP spell. It's instant, which makes it awesome, It can be used at range, and it does a lot of damage over time, which also makes it awesome. Cast it on a Rogue and watch him try to Vanish. Throw it on somebody in the middle of a crowd and wait with glee for him to blow his friends up.

Wait, I do have a tip: Get Glyph of Living Bomb. When this spell's ticks can crit, it becomes even more wondrous. Use it, use it often.
Not Fireball. FFB will do more damage than Fireball with this build, and has that chill effect. The main problem you'll find with FFB is, of course, the cast time, which can't really be helped. You won't want to use this spell when you're up close and personal with your opponents. Use this at range, but when things get ugly, switch to your instant cast/AoE options. Rank one Frostbolts are also a good weapon to use when you need a quick snare.

Again, I find myself closing in on 2,000 words for a column that's supposed to be half as long, so I'd better end this here. Some of you requested PvP macros last week, and I have that planned for a future column. Still others of you even provided some good macro suggestions in the comments section, so thank you for that. Let me know what tips you have for those of us who want to try out a Fire Mage in PvP. I know there are some awesome PvP Fire Mages out there. I know because you have blown me up several times, and it sucked. Don't be stingy with your wisdom. Dispense it in the comments section below. The aspiring pyromanics among us are in your debt.

Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent three-part guide to professions for Mages, or our look at a few ideas for dual speccing your Mage. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.

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