Mages, in World of Warcraft, somewhat resemble the famous description of World War I battleships – eggshells armed with hammers. They can slow their opponents with bitter blasts of ice and frost, scorch them with potent fire spells, or blow them to pieces with a shower of arcane bolts. Their nearly unarmored condition, however, means that it requires an elusive play style to use them effectively – as any WoW mage guide will tell you, you must avoid close combat at all costs.
Mages are a damage class in World of Warcraft, able to inflict huge amounts of damage to opponents at range with their spells (which, incidentally, bypass most armor protection). They are incapable of either healing or tanking, the other two main roles of the game. They bring plenty of utility to raids, instance groups, and PvP, however, due to several of their spells. As any good WoW mage guide will tell you, conjuring water for group or raid members is a major utility role for mages in PvE situations. Crowd control in the form of Frost Nova, which freezes opponents to the ground for a brief period of time, is useful in some dungeons, and extremely useful in PvP, when it can immobilize a good part of an enemy team for several crucial seconds.
“Sheeping” opponents, which involves use of the Polymorph spell to turn a hostile creature or player into a harmless sheep for some time, is useful to reduce the odds when fighting several monsters or a group of “trash mobs” in a dungeon. Frost Nova is another crowd control spell, while conjured water is a free alternative to vendor-bought mana drinks that is appreciated by all dungeon groups.
When you are power leveling your mage character, Frost is the most useful talent specialization, according to most WoW mage guides. This is due to the fact that many frost spells and talents have a crowd control element in them, either reducing the speed of a foe who has been struck by these spells, or freezing them in place outright. This feature also makes the frost mage the preferred spec for dealing with PvP situations, where keeping death knights, paladins, rogues, and other melee classes away is paramount.
Frost mages are the only spec of mage with a summonable pet – since Cataclysm, this water elemental has been the signature move of the spec, available from level 10 onwards.
Fire mages are capable of inflicting the most damage of any mage spec, and are the spec of choice for many endgame raiders and dungeon aficionados for this reason, as WoW mage guides will tell you. Their spells are all designed to produce the highest damage possible, searing their foes to ash swiftly. They are very vulnerable in PvP, however, because of their lack of movement-limiting spells.
They have a few talented stuns, allowing them to deal with NPC foes on a more equal footing, and a few mobility-enhancing abilities that can help keep them out of melee. However, this WoW mage guide notes they are more easily killed while leveling than frost mages, and, as mentioned, are very fragile in PvP.
The arcane talent spec is now at a midpoint between fire and frost for survivability and damage, but has many interesting tricks. For example, Improved Counterspell silences enemy casters as well, making this mages good “mage hunters”. They are well suited to PvP and, when played properly, can provide a satisfactory damage output in instance or raiding situations, too.