Every other week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. Stacey Landry is the resident mage here, bender of space and time, conjurer of delicious confectioneries and expert at dressing well while setting things on fire.
This is part two of three challenge mode tips for mages articles. Click here to go back and read part one.
This week we're going to look at getting your gear ready to dive into challenge modes! First, a few loose ends. I neglected to mention another reward for finishing gold CMs: Challenger's Path. This is a teleport on an 8 hour cooldown that will take you straight to the entrance of a CM you achieved a gold rating in! Once you complete any CM, the teleport cooldown resets. They're very handy for getting around Pandaria.
Some mages left comments about doing gold CMs as arcane. That's great! If you have any CM-specific arcane questions, I'm sure they'd be happy to share some of their strategy in the comments this week. I'll still be assuming you are probably frost. Frost is the most accessible and easiest option for the average mage, but I didn't say it couldn't be done by another spec. The reason for this is that frost scales better than the other two specs at lower item levels. It will perform well for you and can put out some serious AoE damage. Most mages doing CMs use it.
Finally, Adam Koebel posted an introductory challenge mode guide this week. It also includes links to recommended strat videos. HamletEJ's were the ones I used.
Choosing your gear for CMs
Let's dive right into how you'll go about building your CM gear set. There are a few things you'll want to keep in mind as you rummage through your bags looking for gear.
Hit: You retain your hit rating when your gear is scaled down. The bosses are all level 93 so you'll still need 15%. There's some debate about whether it's worth it to go all the way to the cap because the trash is not 93 and you could swap hit for meatier stats.
Set bonuses: They don't work. So there's no point trying to keep your two-set bonus or wearing tier gear at all unless it has the best stats for you. The legendary cloak proc also doesn't work, but the cloak is still best to wear because of the socket in it.
Stats: It's best if the gear has the primary stats you are looking for. Reforging can help you somewhat, but can't entirely eliminate less desirable stats.
Sockets and Socket Bonuses: Sockets are included in an item's stat budget so you will lose some primary stats for having sockets, but it's worth it because gems themselves do not scale down. So having plenty of sockets means you can boost your stats as well as having some flexibility about what stats you'd like to have. Socket bonuses also do not scale down. For this reason, if you can get gear with an intellect socket bonus, use it!
Gear that is powerful for raiding at maximum ilevel may not be the best for challenge modes. In general, you'll do fine as frost by getting gear that has mostly hit (to cap, or just under), haste, and mastery. I would recommend that you try to build a CM set with as little overlap with your "normal" gear set as possible.
These have to be evaluated on an individual basis. But as a general rule of thumb, avoid trinkets that boost your stats because your stats will be so weak by comparison. For example, Purified Bindings of Immerseus would be a poor choice. Once scaling is taken into account, it amplifies your stats for a very measly amount.
Relic of Yu'lon is an excellent trinket if you still have one in your possession or can scare up a Serpent deck. Black Blood of Y'Shaarj is another solid choice, but any similar trinket from a previous tier is fine (e.g. Wushoolay's Final Choice if you need the hit, Light of the Cosmos, etc.) Get a trinket that has a useful primary stat or procs one: static haste with an int proc, or static int with an int proc. The procs themselves are also scaled down but because of reduced stats, Intellect becomes even more valuable to you.
Reforging and Gemming
Once you've got your gear set organized, you'll need to take a look and start tweaking it. There's a nifty addon that a friend of mine made called IceCap. It can help you figure out on the fly whether you're near a haste breakpoint it'd be worth stretching for. Once you install the addon it puts a little icon on your character sheet. Mouse over that to get your info, and click to display a list of potential buffs.
Remember, you are interested in what your scaled gear looks like; you can go to Proving Grounds (IceCap ignores your current buffs and uses what you've told it to use), or you can just head inside a CM by yourself. Mogu'shan Palace is really convenient, but Proving Grounds has a reforger right there. Wowhead also has a tool for scaling your gear down if you'd rather evaluate it outside of game.
Depending on how much hit your gear has, you may find yourself reforging out of crit and into haste and mastery. At max gear level, frost can go with either a heavy haste or heavy mastery build, but for CMs you'll want a healthy mix of both: enough haste to keep your casts snappy, and mastery to boost your Icicles.
The legendary meta gem does not work in CMs. You'll need to pick up a regular Burning Primal Diamond for your helm.
The primary stat you want to gem is Intellect, but it's good to get there along with plenty of secondaries. Matching socket bonuses is desirable since they don't scale down.
Red: Reckless Vermilion Onyx or Artful Vermilion Onyx
Yellow: Reckless Vermilion Onyx or Quick Sun's Radiance
Blue: Lightning Wild Jade or Sensei's Wild Jade
Cogwheels (Engineers only): Rigid Tinker's Gear and Quick Tinker's Gear or Fractured Tinker's Gear
Enchants on your gear do not scale down, so it's important to get the best ones you can in each slot. This remains the same as for raiding.
These are the consumables you'll need:
Flask of the Warm Sun
Potion of the Jade Serpent: Probably not essential for early learning runs but you'll want them as you refine your strat.
275-300 stat food: Either banquets/noodle carts or individual food depending on what your group decides. Food isn't affected by the scaling so you will want to buff up!
Invisibility Potion: For some CMs, it's fastest to skip entire sections. As I mentioned in part one, you can also use your own Greater Invisibility if you don't spec into cauterize. In this case you'll never have to worry about when you use Potion of the Jade Serpent and you'll increase your DPS overall.
General Frost Resources and Macros
If you need an overview of how to play a frost mage, Icy Veins has a great guide including a macro section with a useful Alter Time macro.
I'm including here a few key macros for pet management. The first one is an invaluable macro devised by my guild's other mage.
One-Button Water Elemental
#showtooltip [@pet,nodead,exists]Freeze;Summon Water Elemental
/cast [nopet] Summon Water Elemental
/cast [@pet,dead] Summon Water Elemental
If your Water Elemental isn't present, it summons your water elemental. Once your water elemental is there, pressing this button again casts its Freeze and will give you a targeting reticule.
The next macro is much simpler, it just dismisses your water elemental. It's best to do this anytime your group is about to use invisibility potions. In theory, the water elemental is supposed to benefit from personal invisibility (either a potion or your own spell) but in practice it doesn't always do this. It's just safer to dismiss him - don't forget to re-summon him as soon as you're clear!
Special Mage Considerations
Time Warp: Make sure your group decides beforehand when they want Time Warp to be used. Some CMs allow you to use it on the first and last boss, some of them have too tight a timer for this. Find out when it's needed and remember to cast it at the appropriate time.
CC: On really aggressive pulls you can use Ring of Frost to save your tank's bacon. Even if all the mobs are broken out of the ice quickly, it's still 1-2 seconds during which they aren't hitting your tank. Show your tank what it looks like and make sure they know to drag things into it. There may be a few special instances when you will be called upon to use Polymorph, depending on your strategy.
Icicles: Although generally for most boss fights you don't need to worry about your Icicles, in CMs it can be beneficial to use a quick Ice Lance to fire them off, especially if things are nearly dead. You'll be moving so quickly that sometimes this is your best bet, especially to avoid wasting any Icicles if you're out of combat for a short time or about to use invisibility.
There will be one final portion of this guide. You've got your gear ready, you've specced and watched the strats linked in the general guide, and finally we can talk mage tips specific to each of the nine CMs!