Preliminary mage talent and glyph build

The various WoW-related websites have had talent calculators up for awhile now but they haven’t been particularly useful since so much has been changing week-to-week. But now that things seem to be somewhat settled, it’s safe to begin making preliminary talent builds—knowing that some or all of it might change prior to Cataclysm’s release.

So what should we pick?

As you may recall, the first thing mages need to do is pick a specialization: Arcane, Fire, or Frost. For today, I’m picking Arcane because that’s what I’m most familiar with and because Frost still seems like a PvP build.

First things first

Once you pick Arcane (or any tree) you’re in it to win it, unable to pick anything from a different tree until you have enough points into your specialization.


In Cataclysm, the more mana you have the more damage you do. Thus, our ability to play a mage is going to be gauged by how well we balance costly spells with our mana pool. Do we unload everything at the beginning and then use low-cost spells toward the end of our pool, or does slow and steady win the meter?

The talents—and glyphs—I’ve chosen, based on WoWHead’s calculator, are about mana preservation and capitalizing on Arcane Power at the top of the Arcane tree.

Row One

Arcane Concentration3 ranks
Going all in gives you a damage boost. Here’s how: First, it gives you a 10% chance of entering a Clearcasting state after any damage spell hits a target, which itself reduces the mana cost of your next damage spell by 100%. Thus your damage output will last longer regardless of how you manage your mana pool.

Improved Counterspell2 ranks

I’m surprised at how often this comes into play in a PvE environment—even in dungeons. Aside from the fact that spending these two points is necessary to get some things further into the tree Counterspell is actually useful so it might as well be improved as long as you’re there, eh?

Netherwind Presence3 ranks

Increases haste and that, I would argue, is as important as raw spell power in increasing your damage output. Always increase haste any chance you get.

Row Two

Torment of the Week1 rank

Grants 2% more damage to slowed targets. I only spent one rank because the two ranks that could max it out are better spent elsewhere. But it’s still important to have at least one rank because of how it meshes with other talents discussed later.

Invocationno ranks

A 5% damage bonus for eight seconds is appealing—but it only occurs after a successful counterspell. In my opinion, this doesn’t happen often enough in a PvE environment to warrant spending the talent points.

Improved Arcane Missiles2 ranks

Adds two missiles to Arcane Missiles. This is good and you’ll be shooting such missiles in almost every combat you’re in. There is one snag, in that it takes extra time to cast extra missiles so what about spending that time getting back to casting four Arcane Blasts? I say that the extra time spent casting the two extra missiles is negligible and besides, that little extra time will extend your mana pool if even a little bit.

Improved Blinkno ranks

The only time I ever use Blink is when running back to the boss in an instance after a wipe. It would be wasteful to spend talent points here.

Row Three

Presence of Mind1 rank

When you use this, the next spell becomes instant cast. This can be handy, especially when building up an Arcane Blast rotation. It’s difficult to remember it’s there but a handy way to use it is to activate it at the end of a combat so it’s on deck for the next combat and you can start your Arcane Blast rotation, well, instantly. PoM is also a gateway talent for two other valuable talents…

Arcane Flows2 ranks

One talent that affects many things. It ‘Reduces the cooldown of your Presence of Mind, Arcane Power and Invisibility spells by 25% and the cooldown of your Evocation spell by 2 min.’ Cooling down Invisibility is immaterial, it’s hardly ever used in PvE but all the others are going to be used a lot.

Missile Barrage2 ranks

Reduces the time to cast each missile in Arcane Missiles. Faster output of missiles means more damage overall.

Prismatic Cloak3 ranks

This one is huge. It reduces all damage taken by 6%. All! This essentially gives you 6% more health, 6% more armor, and eases the burden on healers by 6%. It’s a wonder talent. It also reduces the fade time of Invisibility but that’s effectively meaningless.

Row Four

Improved Polymorph2 ranks

If a sheeped target is damaged it’s stunned for three seconds. I debated whether to spend any points in this or not but in the end decided that polymorphing happens just often enough to make it worthwhile.

Arcane Tactics1 rank

Adds 3% damage to the entire party. I must say I do quite a bit of my raiding in a group of people, so giving them a damage boost helps me.

Incanter’s Absorption2 ranks

This is different than what we have now. The new description: ‘When your Mana Shield or Mage Ward absorbs damage your spell damage is increased by 20% of the amount absorbed for 10 sec.  In addition, when your Mana Shield is destroyed, all enemies within 6 yards are knocked back 12 yards.’ This is handy and will encourage more shield use. I must admit I don’t throw up my shields often enough.

Improved Arcane Explosion2 ranks

Reduces cooldown which is nice but importantly it reduces threat by 80%. This can be handy in a variety of situations which is why I put two ranks into it.

Row Five

Arcane Potency2 ranks

This talent keys off of both Presence of Mind and Clearcasting, increasing critical strike chance by 15% whenever either of those activate. With a 10% chance of entering a Clearcasting state whenever you cast a spell, Arcane Potency should yield a noticeable boost in damage.

Slow1 rank

This is merely a prerequisite talent for the Arcane Power talent (see below) and for Nether Vortex (see next).

Nether Vortex2 ranks

Slows every target you Arcane Blast. Which means 100% of your targets will be slowed (among those targets that can be). In PvE, it seems the only things that can be slowed are monsters outside of a dungeon. Those creatures inside of a dungeon that can be slowed are just trash and it won’t matter if you can slow them or not, they’ll be tanked. Still, it might come in handy so better to have this talent than not.

Row Six

Focus Magic1 rank

This is popular among mages and I’ve found it to be quite helpful and enjoyable to use.

Improved Mana Gem2 ranks

This new gem means a 2% increase in spell power. I use my mana gems a lot now so I’m sure to get the benefit of this talent a lot. In fact, currently one complete rotation is roughly equal to the amount a mana gem grants, so at the top of combat I usually just do a rotation then eat a gem to get that mana back and keep on casting.

Row Seven

Arcane Power1 rank

20% more damage for 15 seconds is awesome. I use this ability all the time and would sorely miss it if it was taken away in Cataclysm. Does it belong at the top of the tree? I’m not sure it does actually.

Other Trees

Now that the top of the Arcane tree has been reached, it’s time to branch out to the other disciplines.

Fire Tree

Master of Elements2 ranks

Spell criticals refund 30% of their mana costs. This is fabulous, and helpful with other talents such as Focus Magic. Two ranks in this will help.

Burning Soul1 rank

Reduces casting time lost from taking damage. I put a point into this because I had a point left over and it seemed the most beneficial of the choices I had left.

Frost Tree

Piercing Ice3 ranks

This is a must-buy talent. It increases critical chance by 3% for all spells. There’s no arguing a +3% crit chance.


Of course glyphs shouldn’t be overlooked. Here are my picks…

Prime 1: Glyph of Arcane Power

Major is right—and an obvious choice. Whenever Arcane Power is active, the cooldown of Mirror Image, Mana Shield, and Blink are zero. I reckon this means that Mirror Image can be used whenever Arcane Power is active. Since the set bonus from the (current) tier set is a bonus to damage whenever Mirror Image is active, this means a bonus on top of a bonus.

Prime 2: Glyph of Evocation

Regenerate 60% of your health whenever you Evocate. I use Evocation all the time, I keep a close eye on my mana even now so when it’s even more important in Cataclysm I’ll be Evocating even more. While I’m doing that, I might as well get some health back while I’m at it, eh?

Prime 3: Glyph of Ice Barrier

This would be something to fill out the third slot, but in conjunction with Incanter’s Absorption this makes this glyph more viable.

Major 1: Glyph of Arcane Barrage

Increases Arcane Barrage damage by 4%. Since AB is used all the time, this is just about a 4% increase to damage. An obvious choice.

Major 2: Glyph of Arcane Blast

Like above, but 3%.

Major 3: Glyph of Arcane Missiles

Increases crit chance by 5%. Again, since AM is going to be used all the time, it’s like a 5% overall.

Minor 1: Glyph of Mirror Image

A cosmetic change, pretty much, and one that I welcome! It’ll help individualize mages.

Minor 2: Glyph of Slow Fall

It’s surprising how often this comes up in normal play.

Minor 3: Glyph of the Monkey

Of course this has to be picked. Obviously!


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Geek. (But so are you!)

Posted on September 28, 2010, in World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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