Mage Leveling: 1-29 Fire

12 Jan

Alright, I admit it. I’ve been slacking on the leveling guides.

But today that all gets to change, because I’ve been asked so many times for new Mage leveling guides that I have no choice but to do as the readers command.

I’ve done a lot of Mage leveling in Cataclysm so far, trying out different specs across various level ranges. I’ve leveled my own Mages and I’ve leveled alongside Mages as well. I haven’t been so focused on Mages that I know the ins and outs of leveling as every spec, but I have done enough to know the two of them quite well. Arcane just doesn’t feel right to me while I’m leveling. It works, don’t get me wrong, but it just…I don’t know, but I don’t like it so I’m sticking with Frost and Fire.

So today we start the journey down the leveling road of one of the two classes that are constantly locked in a never ending battle for the rank of Psynister’s Favorite Class, and this time we’re going to look at what is quickly becoming my favorite Mage spec, Fire.

Playing a Fire Mage
Each of the three Mage specs has its own way of doing things. Arcane is about mobility and speed, Frost is about control and security, and Fire is about melting your opponent’s face before any of the rest of that matters. Fire hits hard and though it doesn’t hit as fast as the other two specs, it definitely larger numbers (individually) than the other two.

And in case your spec perk of Fire Specialization doesn’t spell it out clearly enough for you (+25% damage to Fire spells), you’re going to be casting a lot of Fire spells.

Playing a Fire Mage is all about knowing your spells and taking advantage of opportunities. Fire has the longest cast times of all three specs, but their return for that is higher damage. In order to minimize the issue of long cast times you need to become familiar with how, when, and where to cast your spells.

Some people find that playing a Fire Mage is boring because of all of the extra cast time, but Blizzard has done a great job of easing us into those longer cast times while also providing additional utility spells while we level that it’s easy to just build up a feel for it over time to the point that you just get used to it. Don’t discount the brutality of the Fire spec simply for it’s supposed slowness until you’ve given it enough time to make an honest impression.

General Mage Tactics
Mages are known for two things: Being hard to kill, and being incredibly squishy. That’s right, we’re hard to kill because we’re so easy to kill. Why are we easy to kill? Because we wear t-shirts instead of plate armor. Why are we hard to kill? Because we’re often able to kill you before you can do anything to make our t-shirts matter.

As a spellcaster your primary source of defense is to stay away from things that want to hurt you. That doesn’t mean avoiding combat, it means avoiding damage. You’re a ranged class, so don’t get into melee combat when you don’t have to. That doesn’t mean you have to run away from everything, but it does mean you don’t want to run up and hit things with your staff or stab them with a dagger when you could instead cast several spells at them before they can cause you any harm.

Mages have more crowd control options than any other class, in general. Warlocks can beat us when it comes to using CC on certain types of mobs because they have spells that work on things that we don’t, but generally speaking we’re the kings of CC. We can freeze, stun, slow, and polymorph our targets and in some cases we can do those to multiple enemies at once.

Mages also have a number of defensive spells that can either prevent damage or remove harmful effects. If you’re stunned or “rooted” (you can’t move because of a spell/effect) you can cast Blink and it will remove those effects from you. If you are poisoned or diseased you can cast Ice Block to remove all of those effects as well. And if you’re about to die you can always just jump off of a cliff…just make sure you cast Slow Fall before you hit the ground.

Fire-Specific Tips
As I’ve said, cast times are often the thing that drives people away from playing Fire. So what are some ways you can get around that?

  1. Pull with Pyroblast.
  2. Use the terrain to your advantage.
  3. Use the extra time to cast additional spells.
  4. Take advantage of Crowd Control.
  5. Relax, there’s no need to hurry.

Pyroblast: A lot of people seem to think that since this is the “signature” spell of the Fire tree that you’re supposed to be using it all the time, but that’s not true. Pyroblast can get up to a 5 second cast time, which in the middle of combat when you’re already getting pounded on by a mob is most definitely not a good idea. Until you reach level 29 you should only cast Pyroblast when pulling mobs or when breaking crowd control.

Terrain: As a caster you have the huge advantage of being able to use terrain to your benefit where melee classes cannot. If you’re fighting mobs that fight back with melee rather than ranged attacks or spells of their own, then make use the terrain. You can cast your spells through trees, or from the top of a hill or a wall. The time that it takes your target to reach you is time that you have to freely cast your spells. Casting from the opposite side of a tree makes the mob run around the tree to get to you, effectively making the distance between you longer. Doing the same from the opposite side of a fallen log has the same effect, for example.

Time: While your spells do have longer cast times, they also have “travel time”, which is the time it takes between when it’s cast and when it actually hits the target. By following a Pyroblast with a Fireball you effectively remove the majority of the cast time of your Fireball because it takes place outside of combat until the Pyroblast hits.

Crowd Control: There are three types of CC to bring up here: Slow, Freeze, and Polymorph. Slow refers to any Chill effects you have that slow the target down, primarily Frostbolt. By following your Pyroblast pull with a Frostbolt instead of a Fireball you can slow the target’s movement to allow additional time for casting spells before they reach you. Freeze is similar, though it prevents movement from the target all together. Your only source of Freeze for many, many levels is Frost Nova. Once you’ve drawn a mob and he’s closed into melee range you can Frost Nova, move away and then utilize the time for either a Pyroblast or Fireball in safety. Polymorph is just that, and typically used when you’ve pulled multiple mobs. If you’ve taken the time to sheep a mob then the best way to break that CC to get back into combat is to move out to max range and then make use of your long-cast time spells such as Pyroblast.

Relax: Like I said before, Fire is all about packing big enough punches that you don’t need a lot of movement or crazy control and survival skills. If a mob is hitting you, but you’re not in immediate threat of dying, then who cares? Cast another spell, kill them, loot them, and move on to the next mob. You’re not in a hurry as Fire, you’re there to nuke the crap out of things and then go collect all of your loot once the smoke clears.

Important Spells & Abilities
Mages have such an amazingly useful spellbook that it’s really hard to narrow it down to which spells are important and which ones aren’t. Some of them aren’t useful in every fight, but under the right circumstances they’re your go-to spell of choice for the situation. But, I’m going to do my best to remove all of the “but what if…” questions and stick strictly to usefulness for leveling in general circumstances.

All numbers are taken from the level 29 version (where applicable) of the spell. The number following the spell name is the level at which it becomes available.

Damage Spells
Fireball (1): Hurls a fiery ball that causes 63 to 79 Fire damage.
Arcane Missiles (3): Launches a 3-5 waves of Arcane Missiles at the enemy over 2 sec, causing Arcane damage per wave. Each offensive spell you cast has a 40% chance to activate Arcane Missiles.
Fire Blast (4): Blasts the enemy for 67 to 79 Fire damage.
Pyroblast (10): Hurls an immense fiery boulder that causes 91 to 115 Fire damage and an additional 60 Fire damage over 12 sec.
Scorch (26): Scorch the enemy for 47 to 55 Fire damage.

Fireball is your primary nuke spell, the one you’ll spam more than any other as Fire. Arcane Missiles I only list because up to level 29 it will be your main proc spell, allowing you to get mana-free damage; after level 29 you’ll never cast this again. Fire Blast is one of your most useful spells, dealing better damage on average than Fireball and as an instant cast as well; the only drawback being its cooldown. Fire Blast is one of the few spells that provides great utility no matter what spec you choose.

Pyroblast is your signature spell, and the one you’ll use to pull all of your enemies while soloing. Once you hit level 29 this also becomes your mana-free proc as the Hot Streak talent puts it in place of Arcane Missiles. Scorch provides a reasonable, though weaker, alternative to Fireball as your spammable spell if you want to try to force Pyroblast procs more frequently.

Frost Nova (8): Blasts enemies near the caster for 26 to 30 Frost damage and freezes them in place for up to 8 sec. Damage caused may interrupt the effect.
Evocation (12): Gain 15% of your mana instantly and another 45% of your total mana over 6 sec.
Polymorph (14): Transforms the enemy into a sheep, forcing it to wander around for up to 50 sec. While wandering, the sheep cannot attack or cast spells but will regenerate very quickly. Any damage will transform the target back into its normal form. Only one target can be polymorphed at a time. Only works on Beasts, Humanoids and Critters.
Blink (16): Teleports the caster 20 yards forward, unless something is in the way. Also frees the caster from stuns and bonds.

Frost Nova gets a special mention even though it’s not a Fire spell because it’s such an excellent tool for both offense and defense, often both at the same time. If a mob manages to get into melee range use Frost Nova to keep them in place, move away, and then use the time that they’re frozen to cast another Pyroblast. Evocation is your source of massive mana return, and once glyphed it also restores a good amount of your health as well.

Polymorph is your primary crowd control (CC) spell, effectively removing the target from combat. If you pull more than one mob, use this on one of them to even the odds and then smack them upside the head with a Pyroblast once the first target is killed. Blink is another one of our signature abilities, a spell that no one else can duplicate save Subtlety Rogues to a much lesser extent. It allows you to teleport 20 yards away in the direction you’re facing and breaks any stuns or roots that have been cast on you.

Leveling a Mage
Questing Rotation: Pyroblast [Pull], Fireball, Fire Blast, Fireball x3, Fire Blast (Procs when available)
Optional Rotation: Pyroblast [Pull], Fireball, Fire Blast, Scorch x5, Fire Blast (Procs when available)
Dungeon Rotation: Pyroblast [Pull], Fireball, Fire Blast, Fireball x3, Fire Blast (Procs when available)

At this level range there’s not a whole lot of options when it comes to rotation. Basically you’re going to do what I already covered up in the Fire-specific tips section by utilizing pre-pull time for your biggest spell casts and then follow it up with your make spammable spell.

The “Procs when available” comment means to cast the spell associated with your proc when it comes up. Until level 29 you’re main proc is going to be Arcane Missiles which you learn the mechanics of at level 3. At 29 though you put a talent point into Hot Streak which chances the AM Proc into a Hot Streak proc, allowing you to cast an instant Pyroblast that costs no mana. Whenever you get one of these procs, stop the Fireball/Scorch spam and instead cast the spell related to the proc. You also have another proc from your talent tree which is Impact. Impact resets the cooldown on your Fire Blast spell and if you cast Fire Blast on a target it will stun them for 2 seconds and also spread any of your Fire DoT effects on the target to all other enemies within 12 yards of them. Right now the only DoT you have is Pyroblast, so that portion’s not especially important, but the rest of Fire Blast (instant nuke) and the added stun effect are really good.

The two different variations you see up there are Fireball spam and Scorch spam. Fireball hits hard, but it has a long cast time. Scorch is weak compared to Fireball, but it’s got a faster cast time. The appeal of the Scorch spam is that you can try to cast more spells in a shorter period of time to have more chances to land a Hot Streak proc for those mana-free, instant Pyroblasts. I personally prefer Fireball spam over Scorch, but my wife found that Scorch fits her playstyle much better, so try them both and go with the one you feel more comfortable with.

Talent Points

Solo Spec Group/LFG Spec

I’ve gone ahead and listed two different specs up there for you to choose from. The first is focused on solo play, where you spend more points in Burning Soul to reduce pushback and the other puts points into Master of Elements instead for mana conservation. Both of these talents are great, but while MoE can benefit any Mage, Burning Soul does you no good if you never get hit.

Solo Spec
Improved Fire Blast 2/2: Increases the critical strike chance of your Fire Blast spell by 8% and increases its range by 10 yards.
Burning Soul 3/3: Reduces the casting time lost from taking damaging attacks by 70%.
Impact 2/2: Gives your damaging spells a 10% chance to reset the cooldown on Fire Blast and to cause the next Fire Blast you cast to stun the target for 2 sec and spread any Fire damage over time effects to nearby enemy targets within 12 yards.
Ignite 3/3: Your critical strikes from Fire damage spells cause the target to burn for an additional 40% of your spell’s damage over 4 sec.
Hot Streak 1/1: Your spells no longer trigger Arcane Missiles. Instead, your critical strikes with Fireball, Frostfire Bolt, Scorch, Pyroblast, or Fire Blast have a chance to cause your next Pyroblast spell cast within 15 sec to be instant cast and cost no mana.

The Solo spec is all about dealing extra damage whenever possible, and and getting additional functionality out of our spells early on. Improved Fire Blast helps us most with its additional crit chance which increases our chance to proc Hot Streak for free, instant Pyroblasts. Burning Soul comes next because it really helps with Fire’s long cast times. When a mob does close in to melee range and you don’t have any spells available to get distance again you’re going to have to cast while being attacked, and this does a great job of reducing the penalty you get from casting while being attacked.

Impact serves a dual purpose, though primarily we’re taking it for the stun effect and the additional damage from having Fire Blast’s cooldown reset. It also spreads DoT damage to all other targets within 12 yards which is nice though it won’t do a whole lot for us at this stage of the game. Ignite is an excellent ability that gives us extra damage by causing all of our crits to deal additional DoT damage which really stacks up fast with a Fire spec, especially at higher levels.

Finally, we add Hot Streak to the list, replacing the Arcane Missiles proc with a Hot Streak proc that allows us to cast Pyroblast instantly and without a mana cost. Hot Streak procs are the reason people play Fire, don’t let them tell you otherwise. Being able to deal that much damage as an instant cast spell is insane and you’ll cackle with glee every time you do it.

Group/LFG Spec
Improved Fire Blast 2/2: Increases the critical strike chance of your Fire Blast spell by 8% and increases its range by 10 yards.
Master of Elements 2/2: Your spell criticals will refund 30% of their base mana cost.
Burning Soul 1/3: Reduces the casting time lost from taking damaging attacks by 23%.
Ignite 3/3: Your critical strikes from Fire damage spells cause the target to burn for an additional 40% of your spell’s damage over 4 sec.
Impact 2/2: Gives your damaging spells a 10% chance to reset the cooldown on Fire Blast and to cause the next Fire Blast you cast to stun the target for 2 sec and spread any Fire damage over time effects to nearby enemy targets within 12 yards.
Hot Streak 1/1: Your spells no longer trigger Arcane Missiles. Instead, your critical strikes with Fireball, Frostfire Bolt, Scorch, Pyroblast, or Fire Blast have a chance to cause your next Pyroblast spell cast within 15 sec to be instant cast and cost no mana.

The Group/LFG spec is almost exactly the same as the solo spec except for two things. First, we take 2 points in Master of Elements to make our mana last longer by getting 30% mana refunds when we crit, and taking only 1 point in Burning Soul to pay for it since we shouldn’t get hit as often when in groups (hopefully you have a tank). The other is that I suggest you take Ignite prior to Impact because it will give you more damage potential in groups if you crit something and let Ignite burn it down while you begin attacking another target and begin to work on getting Ignite DoT’s on multiple mobs at once.

Glyphs for Leveling
You don’t get glyphs now until level 25, but at least you do get to use them a little bit in this level range.

Prime Glyphs
Glyph of Fireball: Increases the critical strike chance of your Fireball spell by 5%.
Glyph of Pyroblast: Increases the critical strike chance of your Pyroblast spell by 5%.

These are about as basic as it gets for prime glyphs, and they both do the same thing but for different spells. If you’re going to be a Fireball spammer then you’re better off with Fireball for now, but if you’re going to be a Scorch spammer then Pyroblast is the way to go.

The good thing about adding crit chance to Fireball is that it gives you more chances to proc Hot Streak for instant Pyroblasts, but the good thing about adding crit chance to Pyroblast is that you’ll often end up one-shotting mobs from Pyro casts alone which gives you the powerful feel that Fire is supposed to have. If you’re not getting a lot of Hot Streak procs though, the Pyro glyph will only help on the initial cast when you pull the mobs, so you’ll get more use overall out of Fire.

Major Glyphs
Glyph of Evocation: Also grants you 40% of your total health over the channeled time of your Evocation spell.
Glyph of Blast Wave: Increases the damage of your Scorch spell by 20%. [Req Lv 29]

Evocation is one of the most amazing glyphs that Mages have access to. If you can only afford a single glyph, make it Evocation because the ability to heal yourself on the fly like that for 40% of your total health is amazing. Blast Wave is a decent option as well, though you can’t use it until you learn the spell by taking the talent, which you won’t actually do until level 31. If you’re not worried about your health though, it’s a decent option once you have access to the spell.

Minor Glyphs
Glyph of the Monkey: Your Polymorph: Sheep spell polymorphs the target into a monkey instead.
Glyph of the Penguin: Your Polymorph: Sheep spell polymorphs the target into a penguin instead.

These are your only two options within the level range, and sadly they both essentially do nothing at all. They change the physical appearance of what you change targets into when you polymorph them, and that’s it. Of the two, I definitely prefer Monkey, so that’s my suggestion….or just wait until level 32 and use the Glyph of Slow Fall instead.

Macro Suggestions
I actually don’t have any especially good macro suggestions for Fire at this level of play. Everything’s basically as straight forward as you can get. The only thing that even comes to mind here is the generic attack macro I use for all of my attack spells:

/cast Fireball

Gearing Up for Spellcasting
Intellect > Crit > Haste > Hit > everything else

You’re a caster, so Int is your top priority. Crit is number two because your DPS thrives when you manage to crit due to Hot Streak procs and Ignite DoT’s. Haste is good for helping you with those cast times, and it will improve your DoT’s later on when you actually have some. Hit really doesn’t matter while you’re leveling; it’s not a bad stat, it just isn’t all that great either. If you stumble onto some great gear that just so happens to have Hit on it, then grats on your bonus stat, but don’t turn down upgrades to the other stats in favor of Hit at this level.

The Tailoring profession is a great source of gear throughout the various levels, especially if you plan on soloing your way to the top. You can generally find better gear in instances than you can from tailoring when you are starting out, but you can certainly weave that cloth to fill in any gaps you might have. Don’t discount quest rewards though, because Cataclysm brought a whole new set of quest rewards and some of them are fantastic for their level.

Whether you use a staff or you go with a one handed weapon and an off hand item is mostly up to you. Use whatever will give you better stats overall and go with it. Typically the low level staffs will be better than other options, but just use whatever you have on hand that provides the most benefit.

When it comes to Wands, it’s all about the stats. I haven’t used my wand for anything other than killing critters when I’m bored in a very long time. Look for Intellect and Crit above all others for your wand and ignore the damage it can do all together.


Posted by on January 12, 2011 in Caster, Class, Guide, Leveling, Mage



7 responses to “Mage Leveling: 1-29 Fire

  1. Khraden

    January 12, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    Actually, I think that a good macro that could be used when Hot Streak becomes available, is a stopcast to pick up your insta-Pyroblast (something like below):

    /cast Pyroblast

    I’ve yet to level a fire mage, and always liked the way a Frost mage played. But this could be a nice alternative once I hit 30 and get Dual Spec.

    • Psynister

      January 12, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      I’ve used the stopcast macro a few times in the past, but you always actually end up losing DPS if you cancel a spell. None of your spells, even Pyro itself has a long enough cast time that you’ll miss out on the Hot Streak proc if you let the current spell finish casting, so you’re better off just waiting it out and having it be the very next spell that you queue.

      If you’re all about tossing the HS-Pyro’s then a stopcast macro like that is a great choice, and I can confirm from using it myself previously that it does work. If you take a Fire spec to end game and raiding though, stopcast for Pyro will lead to a DPS loss, so you might not want to build the habit if you plan on taking your Fire Mage all the way.

  2. Kandin

    January 12, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Wonderful post!
    I just rolled a goblin mage to toy around with and decided to spec her for Fire, but wasn’t sure what to take in the tree.

    • Psynister

      January 12, 2011 at 11:30 PM

      Always happy to be of service. :)

  3. orgonite

    October 29, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Wow, superb weblog format! How long have you been running a blog for? you make blogging look easy. The overall glance of your website is great, let alone the content!


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