On Mage Design

Hey guys. One of my biggest interests in WoW is the design of classes, and in SL I mained mage. Played mage plenty before, but not as a main. It has many poorly designed elements and I kind of want to go through all of them, for all specs in this post. I’m curious what you think. I will offer some simple suggestions, but this is not a redesign post, but one that points out blatant flaws.

Many base design flaws are often covered by the contrived extra systems blizz liked to introduce last two expansions. 8.3 mage became fun with very specific interaction of borrowed power, and in SL all 3 mage specs are filled in with it. Arcane in particular has a very poor basis and Arcane Harmony actually makes it “complete” (but still bad) instead of adding cherry on top. So here it goes, feel free to skip around as you wish:


Fire has by far the best base interaction set with heating up, hot streak, fireball, the fireball passive, fire blast, and pyroblast. Doing single target damage as fire feels smooth even without any additional legendaries etc. Boring maybe, but it’s fundamentally functional and the interaction is not broken based on your stat weights.

The first flaw comes with flamestrike. The design intends you to cast fireballs until you get a hot streak, but people figured if your mastery is weak enough (so double mastery damage from consuming hot streak is not worth) and flame patch is strong enough, you might as well hard cast flamestrike. This is a problem. I’ll list some more and offer basic solutions.

Second, the 9.0 fire mage showed a clear problem with cooldown reducing abilities for combustion, while combustion is also tied to rune of power, and in SL’s case, infernal cascade as well, in case 40% damage multiplier was not enough. This made it so nothing could come close to that build unless it is nerfed and something else is buffed simultaneously (9.1).

Third, phoenix flames is a bad way to spread ignite, and a bad spell to use in combustion. As far as the second point, I THINK when you cast pyroblast the game registers whether it crit or not before it actually impacts, but with phoenix flames you have to wait for the projectile to hit the target. That makes it so unless you stand in meele range, the speed in which you can go through your rotation in pyroblast is limited by phoenix flames travel time. And then you get the case of your GCD being lower than the travel time making you jump or move to avoid hardcasting pyroblasts while the bird is still in mid air.
The second issue is that the travel time makes you have to miss a tick of ignite.

And fourth, many talents don’t make much sense and are tacked on. The spec does not focus very well on one thing. It seems to be confused between wanting to do direct damage vs ignite damage.

Fire could really do well by focusing on ignite as the main objective. If you look at damage patterns in legion it looks quite healthy. In 9.0 it looks silly. In 9.1 the venthyr + sun king’s playstyle pushes it closer to the legion method.

Sun king’s also lets the spec have short burst phases instead of huge combustion multipliers. That, I think, is more the gameplay type fire should focus on, but allowing you to trigger mini bursts on demand instead. One potential design solution in my mind would be to have phoenix flames be a guaranteed crit spell that gives you a short buff that will increase your ignite damage. Ignite spreader should instead be living bomb. It would be fun if the target that has living bomb on it pulses its ignite to nearby enemies, and you could manually detonate the bomb to instantly do the remaining tick damage in a radius.
In this world, the purpose of flamestrike has to be reexamined. There’s a few ways it can fit in, whether it’s fire’s way of doing arcane explosion with dot damage on it, or a way to instantly generate hot streaks if it hits X targets at least (with a lower cast time) so that your AOE can scale from the number of targets similarly to how rogue’s shuriken storm does. I like this second idea a lot for flamestrike, to be honest.

And please… remove rune of power from this spec. It’s not fun.


The flaws of frost are so blatant I just can’t understand why they have not been fixed??
Frost seems like 3 half-assed designs put together. The current single target is carried by the feedback loop between icy propulsion, frostbolt legendary, and the icy veins talent.
The second single target/cleave option of glacial spike is bad now, but was better in 8.3. It is with direct contradiction with the ice lance playstile, I’ll explain.
The third design bit is blizzard + frozen orb. It has no interaction with the single target at all, apart from the funnel idea.

So what’s the main issue? The most blatant one is that ice lance does not scale with mastery. Your goal as a frost player in single target is to shatter as many ice lances as possible. You do that through FoF procs, or flurry procs, same idea. You get those procs by casting frostbolt. So, frostbolt is a means to an end, right?
Well apparently as 8.3 showed, if you have ridiculous amounts of mastery, frostbolt becomes THE objective because of icicles (and so Glaical Spike). Mastery buffs the means to your end, but does not buff the “end”!

Quick fix to this? One that you could do right now? Make icicles a passive, and turn frost mastery into a crit damage multiplier. The reason it’s a fix is that you don’t want your stats to affect the relative power of abilities in a way that it’s not obvious how you adjust your playstyle, let alone having to change playstyle into something degenerate like the 8.3 glacial spike one.

In the grand scheme of frost though, dear god it needs fixes. All of the fun buttons are bad. And all of the fun buttons feel tacked on even if they are fun, like comet storm and ebonbolt as a talent and glacial spike and ice nova and so on. Currently, 3 talent rows that you pick just simply buff ice lance damage. That is so boring… so so boring.

I don’t have specific suggestions of how to overhaul frost mage but it is definitely needed. And whatever the solution is, I think it should involve glacial spike as a base spell, the goal to be creating small bursts (not the same as fire, more like a small burst every 10 seconds). It should get rid of rune of power for sure, and have ways to do aoe shatter without relying on actual roots which break, and of course, involve the fun spells somehow.


Arcane has many issues but one of them is similar to that of frost: since legion at least, it cannot figure out what the goal is. Is arcane blast the goal? Is barrage the goal? Is missiles the goal? The answer is really not obvious from its design and depends on tuning. Before SL missiles did crap damage so its only purpose was to stall while you regenerate mana. Now it does more damage then arcane blasts so before the harmony build was discovered (gg Theamara) you wanted to cast missiles in your “burn” window. Burn window that does not actually use mana…

Barrage sounds like it should be the big boom spell, but by legion’s design it’s just a way to help conserve mana again. Of the last 3 expansions legion was probably the most intuitive, and that doesn’t say much. You wanted to hit blasts, you used missiles to stall, and you used barrage to stall even more. It was still bad because you had to stand still all the time.

Now, the arcane harmony idea at least sort of makes it more intuitive compared to the venthyr arcane style. It kind of ties everything together, but still, the gameplay is so incredibly rigid. Unless the boss revolves around your cooldowns, you are screwed and it feels awful. If you don’t crit a lot in the magi window it feels bad as well. The biggest payoff you get in terms of satisfaction is when the big barrage crits and you go “oh yeah baby” but again, when it doesn’t happen it feels like crap.

I think arcane has the most space for creativity and blizzard should not be constrained by figuring out how to make blast, missiles, and barrage work. Just change the whole spec, it’s not like other specs have missiles anymore. The idea that the last talent which gives you random effects insinuates is kind of cool to me. It should be about controlling chaotic power. Something like where you get surges of power that you should be able to handle as well as possible and exploit it for maximum damage.

Anyways, if any of you guys have your own suggestions or qualms with mage please comment. I want to make a post a bit later where I suggest exact design of spells and talents, even if it’s just for me to formulate thoughts and nobody actually reads it.

Cheers everyone, and try to play fire with good bass. It sounds sooooo nice


As a mostly casual, AOTC type player that mains frost mage, I see where you’re coming from. Overall I feel frost plays very well and is an easy spec to pick up, however…it is BORING! Glacial Spike was a fun button to press, but with the current design it’s not the PVE talent to choose (I don’t PvP, so no idea how it fits in there).

Using frostbolt to fish for procs is fair enough, but when I hit Icy Veins, I want something awesome to happen. Maybe a must more satisfying spell animation, or at least something that makes me feel more powerful in the moment.

Fire I’ve avoided mostly because outside of Combustion window’s I feel like I’m doing almost no damage. Although frost has no real “burst,” at least it’s steady damage.

I’ve just started playing with arcane and the Arcane Harmony build now that I can freely swap covenants. It takes a bit to get used to worrying about mana, and missile stacks, and barraging just before the Touch of the Magi ends. Possibilities with that…

I enjoy seeing your thought process on the specs…very well thought out!