Arcane Brilliance: Mists of Pandaria mage guide to stats and reforging

Human fire mage

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week, we talk about how awesome mages are. But did you know that you can make your mage even better? I know! It's like chocolate-covered chocolate. Or a cheesecake that also grants you three wishes. Or an Avengers movie that is also directed by Joss Whedon. Or a warlock that is also dead.

With just over a week of this pre-expansion/post-patch limbo to go, it's high time we covered one last piece of patch 5.0.4 mage business before we turn our eyes almost exclusively toward the impending influx of pandaren and monks and ... pandaren monks. But good news! Most, if not all, of what we discuss here today will also apply in Mists. Though there are always small shifts in stat weight at endgame, we're still quite far removed from knowing exactly how things will shake out when we're all doing hard mode raiding.

This expansion brings some major changes to our stats, radically altering the benefits they do and don't provide. Before we get to each spec and its stat weights, let's look at each stat and familiarize ourselves with its Mists of Pandaria version.

Intellect This is still absolutely our primary stat. It should be on almost every piece of gear (trinkets will occasionally be the exception) you ever equip. It provides you with Spell Power, which adds damage to all of your offensive spells, and is the single most effective way to increase your damage output, point for point, regardless of your spec. Intellect also increases your critical strike chance.

One thing intellect no longer does is add to your mana pool. In Mists, all mana pools for every class have been normalized. This means your max mana pool at any given level will be identical to any other mage at the same level. There is no way to increase the amount of mana you have at any given time, though it is possible to increase how fast your mana pool regenerates. More on that in a moment.

Hit rating As always, this stat increases your chance of hitting your target. Against a raid boss, your mage has a base 15% chance to miss. A spell that misses its target does exactly zero damage and still costs precious mana and wastes precious time, meaning that every miss is a massive DPS loss, and that capping your hit chance at 100% is still of paramount importance. Thanks to reforging, capping hit is much easier now than it used to be, but until you hit that 15% cap, you'll want to prioritize your hit rating above all other secondary stats. Reforge until you're at 100% exactly. Any extra hit above that cap is completely wasted.

At level 85, we require 1537 hit to cap at 100%, though that information ceases to be useful in about a week and a half. At level 90 your mage will need 5100 hit rating to hit 15%. Unless your mage is a draenei, human, or gnome. Draenei have a racial ability called Heroic Presence, which grants them a 1% to their hit chance. Humans have access to Sword Specialization and gnomes have Shortblade Specialization, which both grant 1% extra expertise. Expertise is not a stat that will be on mage gear as a rule, but in Mists, it does grant spell hit chance. So for those three lucky races -- as long as your human or gnome has a sword or dagger equipped respectively -- your hit cap is 14%, and you'll need 4420 hit rating. Suck it, Horde races.

Haste rating lowers the cast time of your spells, the global cooldown of instant spells, and the amount of damage ticks you get from your DOT spells. Generally, you can be sure that adding haste rating will make your spellcasting faster.

Haste also doubles as your method for increasing mana return. Each point of haste rating increases your baseline mana return rate per second. Which is important, since as we've already discussed, our mana pools are entirely fixed in size.

Critical Strike Rating is pretty much that same as always. It increases your chance to land a critical strike on your foe with your spells. And I think we can all agree that critical strikes are a thing we all want more of. Ended that sentence with a preposition. Not going to change it. Suck it, 10th grade English teacher.

Mastery rating delivers a benefit to your DPS that varies by spec. It is always a DPS increase, and I'll detail the effects below.

Arcane stat priority

  1. Intellect

  2. Hit rating (until capped)

  3. Mastery rating

  4. Haste rating

  5. Critical strike rating

Again, these may shift slightly as we get more data at level 90 (in particular, I could see haste and mastery swapping spots), but at this point, that's the stat priority we're looking at. Intellect is always going to be at the top of the heap, but that's not a stat you're going to have to go looking for, as it's going to be on all of your gear anyway. When gemming and enchanting, intellect is always going to be your first choice, since your secondary stats can be adjusted by reforging.

Hit rating will be your first priority of the secondary stats until the moment it is capped and not a moment longer. Once hit is capped, put your points into mastery, haste, and crit rating in that order.

Mastery increases the effectiveness of Mana Adept for arcane mages, which adds spell damage to all your spells depending upon how much mana you have left. If you're conserving mana and using your mana return cooldowns properly as an arcane mage, increasing your mastery will dramatically increase your damage, secondary only to the straight damage increase of intellect. If you're not using your mana pool effectively, your damage is going to be terrible anyway, no matter how much mastery you have, and you should probably switch specs.

Haste is also vital to arcane mages, since adding mana regen also adds damage, thanks to Mana Adept.

Fire stat priority

  1. Intellect

  2. Hit rating (until capped)

  3. Critical strike rating

  4. Haste rating

  5. Mastery rating

For fire mages, intellect is still king, and hit rating still needs to be capped. Once you've taken care of your hit chance, your secondary stat of choice should be critical strike rating. More critical strikes means more free instant Pyroblasts, which is the main damage increasing mechanic enjoyed by fire mages.

Haste is of high importance to fire mages too, due to their reliance on DOT damage. More haste means more ticks of Living Bomb (or Nether Tempest, if that's your thing), Pyroblast, and Combustion, which means more things fall down go boom.

Mastery for fire mages increases the effectiveness of Ignite, a very powerful DOT (not effected by haste, due to the overall damage being set by the damage of the spell that triggered Ignite). It increases your DPS, to be sure, but crit and haste will benefit you more, point for point.

Frost stat priority

  1. Intellect

  2. Hit rating (until capped)

  3. Haste rating

  4. Critical strike rating

  5. Mastery rating

Again, intellect is your primary stat, and hit should be capped. For frost mages, haste is your most valuable secondary stat. It increases the cast speed of your spells, which means more Fingers of Frost procs, which means more damage.

Crit is also quite important, but due to Shatter, it can reach an effective cap. Shatter doubles your crit chance against frozen targets and then adds another 50%. That means that if your normal crit chance is 25%, Shatter will increase your crit against frozen targets to 100%. Against raid bosses, which suffer approximately 3% lower crits than non-bosses, that cap is 103%, and you'll need a 26.5% crit chance to reach it.

Increasing crit above that soft 26.5% cap isn't a total waste, but any points of crit above the cap are drastically reduced in value, to the point that I'd advise you to reforge any crit that will take you above the soft cap.

Mastery for frost mages increases the effectiveness of Frostburn, which in turn increases your damage against frozen targets and the damage done by your water elemental. These are both important damage increases, but weighted below haste and crit as of right now.

Now, when it comes to your secondary stats and reforging them optimally, there are very few hard and fast rules. What I have layed out above will be true for most mages most of the time, but there will be exceptions. Your stat weights will change slightly at increasing gear levels, as they have always done. I would heartily recommend that you employ the services of a stat calculator like Ask Mr. Robot to help you make your own decisions as your progress through the endgame of this new expansion. Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it before: Suck it, warlocks.

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. We have you covered for Mists of Pandaria info, including our recent mage talent spec guide, and our guide to glyphs. And be sure to check out our list of reasons to still love our mages after all these years.