FAQ: Non-Obvious Mage Mechanics

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Please feel free to report for stickiness, and to suggest additional questions that keep getting asked and answered about things that don't seem to work in the most intuitive possible way.

Table of Contents
Base Mana and Derived Stats
Brain Freeze Frostfire Bolt consuming Fingers of Frost
Cold Snap
Deep Freeze
Early Frost
Flame Orb and Frostfire Orb
Frostburn and Shatter
Frostfire damage, resistance, and spell penetration
Hot Streak & Improved Hot Streak
Living Bomb
Mana Adept
Master of Elements
Mirror Image
Nether Vortex
Piercing Chill
Torment the Weak

Base Mana and Drived Stats

Q: My spell costs are apparently derived from my "Base Mana". What does that mean?
A: Base Mana is the mana that you would have even if you somehow had zero intellect. This number increases with every level. At level 85, you have 17,418 base mana. A spell that costs 8% of your base mana would therefore cost 1,393 mana.

Q: How is my total mana calculated?
A: Base Mana + (Intellect - 18) * 15 - 10

Q: How is my total health calculated?
A: Base Health + (Stamina - 19) * 14 + 6 -- Base Health is 37,113.

Q: How is my spell power calculated?
A: Intellect - 10 + (any spell power you have on weapons or from buffs)

Brain Freeze Frostfire Bolt consuming Fingers of Frost

Q: Why is it that when I have both Brain Freeze and Fingers of Frost buffs up, and I cast Frostfire Bolt, it consumes both buffs?

A: Frostfire Bolt benefits from (and therefore consumes) a Fingers of Frost charge if it is cast while Brain Freeze is active. This is explained on the Brain Freeze tooltip instead of the Fingers of Frost tooltip.

Cold Snap

Q: Which cooldowns can be reset with Cold Snap?

A: Frostfire Orb, Cone of Cold, Deep Freeze, Frost Nova, Ice Barrier, Ice Block, Icy Veins, Ring of Frost, and Summon Water Elemental.


Q: What the hell? I don't understand this at all.

A: You are not alone. Explaining how this talent works in a short tooltip is virtually impossible. It really isn't all that complicated, though. Say you have three DOTs currently ticking on the target: Pyroblast is ticking for 500 damage every 3 seconds (167 DPS), Living Bomb for 1900 every 3 seconds (633 DPS), and Ignite for 1000 every 2 seconds (500 DPS). When you hit Combustion, a new DOT is created that will tick for the total DPS value (1300 DPS) for 10 seconds. The Combustion DOT ticks once per second.

Deep Freeze

Q: The spell description says that it stuns the target. Is the target also considered frozen?

A: Yes. Targets in a Deep Freeze are considered frozen.

Q: What sort of target is "permanently immune" to stuns? Will Deep Freeze do damage to Bubbled Paladins/Ice Blocked Mages/Etc.?

A: No. If the target you are casting Deep Freeze at can ever be stunned under any circumstances, Deep Freeze cannot damage the target. Bubbled Paladins/Ice Blocked Mages/Etc. are not permanently immune; they are temporarily immune. Wait a few seconds, and they will no longer be immune.
Early Frost

Q: How exactly does Early Frost work? Is it activated or what?

A: Early Frost is not activated. It has an internal cooldown, and activates automatically every time that cooldown ends. If you cast a Frostbolt that is hasted by Early Frost, then 15 seconds after you began casting that Frostbolt, Early Frost will reactivate.

Q: Doesn't Early Frost push Frostbolt's cast time below the global cooldown? Doesn't this keep you from getting full benefit?

A: The Frostbolt you cast while Early Frost is active will trigger a 1.0 second GCD, rather than one of normal length. This allows you full benefit up to 40% haste.

Q: Early Frost seems to be consumed when I start casting a Frostbolt even if I don't finish! What's up with that?

A: This likely is designed to prevent you from exploiting latency to chain-cast two hasted Frostbolts in a row. Note that it also kicks off the cooldown when you start casting rather than when you finish, which means it's back up a little bit sooner as well. Ideally, this would be fixed, but it may not be possible given the limitations of client/server communication.

Flame Orb and Frostfire Orb

Q: How exactly does it function?

A: After you cast it, it travels fairly quickly in the direction you were facing. As soon as a hostile or neutral target is within range of its beams, the orb slows down, begins firing, and begins its 15-second timer. It can fire up to 15 times. It will always fire at the closest target within range, so if it is passing by multiple targets or the targets are moving around, it may split its damage between two or more targets.

Q: Does it inherit the Mage's stats?

A: Mostly, yes. It is basically treated as the Mage's own spell, even though the Orb is firing on its own. It should hit and crit at the same rate as the Mage's spells do. The ticks are not, however, accelerated by Haste.

Q: Can it trigger Ignite?

A: Yes. Flame Orb ticks that score critical strikes will trigger Ignite.

Q: What does the Frostfire Orb talent do to the spell?

A: It changes the graphic and sound. The first point changes the damage to Frostfire damage, allowing the Frost Mastery damage multiplier to apply to it. The second point adds a chill effect; this is the most significant change, because it allows the orb to proc Fingers of Frost, giving you up to fifteen additional chances to gain a Fingers of Frost charge per minute.

Q: So isn't this spell useless for Arcane Mages?

A: No. Arcane's Mastery applies to Flame Orb. Every other cast can happen immediately after an Evocation to full mana, applying a very large multiplier from Mana Adept.

Frostburn and Shatter

Q: What exactly counts as "frozen" for the purposes of these effects?

A: If the target is affected by a Frost Nova, pet Freeze, Shattered Barrier, Improved Cone of Cold, Deep Freeze, Ring of Frost freeze, Freezing Trap, or Hungering Cold at the moment of casting, any spell will treat the target as frozen. It does not matter who was the source of the freezing effect.

If Fingers of Frost is on the caster at the moment of casting, Ice Lance and Deep Freeze will treat the target as frozen.

If both Fingers of Frost and Brain Freeze are on the caster at the moment of casting, Frostfire Bolt will treat the target as frozen.

Frostfire damage, resistance, and spell penetration

Q: How does Frostfire damage work against magic resistances and with spell penetration?

A: Frostfire is checked against the lower of the target's two resistance values. If your target has 100 Fire resist and 50 Frost resist, it will check against the 50 for penetrative resists. If you have 50 penetration, it will act as if your target had 0 resist value. This doesn't bypass the unmitigatible resist values based on being a higher level than the caster, which may well scale with raid tiers now (we'll have to see).


Q: I have 25% haste, so why is my Fireball cast time 2.4 seconds instead of 2.25 seconds? Is haste working properly?

A: 25% Haste does not decrease cast time by 25%; it increases casting speed by 25%. What this means is that you can get 25% more spells cast in the same amount of time. With zero haste, you could cast four Fireballs in twelve seconds (12 / 3 = 4). With 25% haste, you can cast five Fireballs in twelve seconds (12 / 2.4 = 5). Five is 25% more than four.

It may help to think of the extreme case of having 100% haste (this can happen in raids with stacked haste effects). If haste reduced cast times, then 100% haste would make all of your spells instant-cast, which obviously does not happen. Instead, it increases your casting speed by 100%, allowing you to cast twice as many spells in the same amount of time.
Hot Streak and Improved Hot Streak

Q: What's the deal with the two talents doing the same thing in different ways?

A: The idea is to stabilize, within reason, the value of Hot Streak so that it isn't terrible at low crit rates or overpowered at high crit rates. The first talent has a sliding proc rate, higher when your crit rate is low, and declining as your crit rate increases. To keep it brief: you want both talents, as the first will get weaker as the second gets stronger. If you want the grisly details, read this (details under the Specific Talents heading):


Q: Why do the DOTs spread by Impact sometimes expire so quickly?

A: DOTs spread by Impact use the remaining duration, not the full duration, of the originals.

Also see: Living Bomb for effect related to Impact.

Living Bomb

Q: Living Bomb fell off my target! What happened?

A: When you get the talent Impact, allowing Fire Blast to spread your Fire DoT spells, it ignores Living Bomb's timer. If there are more than three targets, it will attempt to apply Living Bomb to all of them; since the spell is limited to three targets, one or more of them (which can be your primary target) will fail.

Q: Living Bomb refreshes the duration now, is this good or bad?

A: For AoE, bad. For single target raid fights, good. The DoT will do more damage over time than the explosion in the 1.5 it takes to cast a new Living Bomb. Contrary to the old days, it's better to let Living Bomb keep going.

Mana Adept

Q: How exactly does the Mana Adept bonus work as my mana pool changes?

A: First, to dispel a common theory: it is not a "stepped" bonus. In other words, it's not like you have one multiplier between 75% and 100% mana, another between 50% and 75%, and so on. It simply multiplies your maximum bonus by your current mana percentage at the moment you cast the spell. So for example, if you have a maximum Mana Adept bonus of 40%, and your mana at the instant you cast a spell is at 78%, your actual bonus will be 40 * .78 = 31.2%.

Master of Elements

Q: Why do I get mana back on free spells, and why do I only get a little mana back from a fully-stacked Arcane Blast crit?

A: The mana refund from Master of Elements is always based on the spell's base mana cost. It is not affected by talents, buffs, or debuffs in any way. If the spell's base cost is 1000 mana, you will always get back 300 mana, even if you have talented the cost down to 900, or if you have Clearcasting making it free, or if you have an Arcane Blast buff tripling its real cost.

Mirror Image

Q: How does the threat reduction on Mirror Image work?

A: Mirror Image does not permanently eliminate or reduce any threat. While active, it sets your threat to zero, thus effectively making it impossible for you to pull aggro from a tank while the Images are active (note: if it's just you and your images, you can still pull aggro from your images). However, you continue to accumulate threat, and when the Images expire, your new threat total will include the threat you generated while they were active. It is very useful for buffering spike damage, or for dropping threat to give yourself time to use Invisibility for a more permanent solution.

Nether Vortex

Q: Why doesn't Nether Vortex work when I'm 40 yards away from the target?

A: Nether Vortex actually casts your Slow spell at the target. It therefore obeys Slow's range. If you want it to affect targets at 40 yards range, you can use the Slow glyph to increase its range from 35 to 40 yards.

Piercing Chill

Q: I pretty much never need to snare targets in raids, so why would I want a talent that snares extra targets?

A: Because it does so by applying a chill effect to those targets -- and chill effects have a chance to proc Fingers of Frost. In other words, Piercing Chill acts as a sort of cleave damage talent for Frost Mages -- except instead of damaging the cleave targets, it increases DPS against the primary target by giving you more Fingers of Frost procs. Roughly speaking, when you have two cleave targets for Piercing Chill to hit, your chance to proc Fingers of Frost increases by about 11% if your Frostbolt has a 35% chance to crit.

Q: I only have one Pyroblast spell in my spellbook, but sometimes my combat log indicates that I'm casting "Pyroblast!" with an exclamation point. What the heck?

A: Pyroblast! is the instant version of Pyroblast activated by Hot Streak. There may be some differences in this version of the spell in terms of the DOT applied, and a bug involving attempting to move while casting it. This section needs expansion once that information is clarified.

Torment the Weak

Q: Do I need to talent into Nether Vortex or cast Slow on a target in order to trigger the damage bonus from TTW?

A: No. Torment the Weak works on both movement speed and attack speed reductions. Your friendly neighborhood tanks should be keeping an attack speed reduction up on the target.
(Reserved for future expansion)

(I hope this is enough. Post limit seems to be shorter on new forums.)
Oh, nice.

It looks like if you mouseover a post, two icons appear on the right side. One is a "like" button, the other is a menu with a few options including "Report". Probably use "other" and ask that it be stickied.

Your proof, Sir Lhivera.
I was actually wondering how haste affects the Deep Freeze cool down now, seeing as how haste cool downs such as Time Warp/Blood Lust seem to apply.
Ooooh! Very nice! I did not know DF worked on vehicles now! Thanks all!
Torment the Weak

Q: I see a lot of PvE specs that have Torment the Weak but not Slow or with Glyph of Frostbolt. Doesn't that keep Torment the Weak from working?

A: Torment the Weak works on both movement speed and attack speed reductions. Your friendly neighborhood tanks should be keeping an attack speed reduction up on the target.

This question should be updated a bit. Post-4.0.1, any Arcane build will have Slow since it's required in order to reach Arcane Power. No proper Frost or Fire build would have TTW, since it now only applies to Arcane damage, and Glyph of Frostbolt no longer removes the snare.

It's still a good question, though. But the question should be more along the lines of "Do I need to talent into Nether Vortex or cast Slow on a target in order to trigger the damage bonus from TTW?"

There are a couple of other non-obvious mechanics for Arcane which are mentioned in the Arcane thread at Elitist Jerks which might be good to add to this thread:

1. Master of Elements - the mana returned from this talent when you crit with Arcane Blast is always based on the mana cost of a basic unstacked AB...even if you had 2+ stacks of AB when you got the critical strike.
2. Nether Vortex - this talent obeys the 35-yard range of the Slow spell, while Arcane Blast's range is 40 yards. If you want the Slow effect to be applied when you cast AB on a target that is 36-40 yards away, you need to use the Glyph of Slow (increases range by 5 yards, bringing Slow's range up to par with AB).

I'm not good at putting those into a Q & A format, but that's the gist of them. :)

Thanks for the thread - hopefully it gets (re-) stickied!
Yeah DF on siege tanks is amazing. Gotta love blasting them with a 30k crit :)
Updated! Thanks for the corrections and suggestions!
Since I can't download the beta past 81%, what is the actual percent haste-to-cooldown reduction ratio for DF?
Updated to add a few more questions, and added a specific example to clarify the Deep Freeze cooldown reduction.
You don't have to address this directly in the Q&A, but I was trying to work out if casting flame orb directly before or after an Evocation as arcane would net a larger DPS increase. My reasoning was using it before would allow the normally DoT/passive damage free arcane to have damage being done during its recharge phase, meaning that using evocation doesn't drop your DPS to 0 while it's going on. The reasoning for after is, as you said, that it would gain a much larger benefit from the mastery if used at full mana.

Again, being sans beta, it's really hard to crunch numbers I don't have readily available to me -.-

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