Mage Spell Hit Explained

Greetings fellow mages,

Ahh, the joy of being a PvE mage. You’ve hit 70, and hooked up with a fantastic raiding guild. Now what? Well, typically, the next step is to upgrade your gear, but now that you’re 70, and looking to raid, your needs have changed. Spell damage and spell crit will now no longer effectively cover it. Now, you need spell hit rating.

Every mage worth his or her salt knows they need it. We’ve all been told ‘You need spell hit on your gear,’ but why exactly does everyone keep harping on this? So let’s go over it here just to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Why Spell Hit

To begin, let’s understand a bit of the game’s mechanics. When fighting a mob your level, you have a base 96% chance to hit that mob with a spell. If the mob is one level higher than you, that chance drops to 95%. Two levels higher, and your hit chance is 94%. Three levels, and you only will hit 83% of the time.

For our purposes, any “boss” mob, i.e. any mob with a skull icon indicating level, is treated as a mob 3 levels higher than you. Therefore, you begin with an 83% chance to hit that mob. 17 times out of 100, you will see the word you least like to see when the mob does it, ‘Resist’

Your maximum spell hit rating is 99%, no matter how much spell hit rating you add, therefore, there is a hard limit on how much hit rating you will need.

To put this issue into numbers, let’s assume that your fireball does 2000 damage (a reasonable assumption I believe). The cast time on it is 3 seconds (We’ll deal with spell haste in a future column sometime). Your fire crit chance is 28%. Fire crits do 210% damage (Ignite is a beautiful talent). And the fight lasts 8 minutes.

If we assume that you are constantly casting, and have no mana problems (I see you have a shadow priest in your group), and no spell hit rating, you have the ability to cast 160 Fireballs. Of those 160, 133 will hit. 45 Fireballs would have crit had they all hit, however, since only 133 hit, only 38 of them will crit. This results in 349,600 damage dealt during the 8-minute fight, or 728 dps. Very respectable in and of itself. However …

If we assume that you have sufficient spell hit to achieve 99% spell hit, then of your previously mentioned 160 fireballs, 158 will hit, and 44 of those will crit. That’s 412,800 damage total, or 860 dps.

With simply the addition of spell hit rating, changing nothing at all about our damage, cast time, or anything else, we can achieve almost 140 extra dps. To achieve that dps increase by adding + spell damage, we would need to add approximately 275 spell damage. And the more damage we do with our Fireballs, the greater the dps increase will be for adding the spell hit rating.

How much Spell Hit

So, now that we’ve concluded that having that spell hit rating would be a good thing, let’s talk about how much we need. With absolutely no help from talents, a mage requires 202 spell hit rating to reach 99% chance to hit. Ouch! Not fun. Fortunately, there are talents that will help us with that.

The first, and easiest place to get a spell hit boost is with the talent ‘Elemental Precision.’ Located in the first row of the Frost talent tree, you can place up to 3 points in this talent, and gain 3% chance to hit with all spells. This will reduce the spell hit rating that you will need outside of talents to 164.

The other talent that you can use to gain spell hit rating applies only to Arcane spells. Arcane Focus, a first row Arcane talent, can give up to 10% spell hit rating for Arcane spells only. Whereas Arcane is not a typical raiding spec for a mage, we will ignore this talent for now.

Outside of these talents, we must look to our gear, gems, and enchants for spell hit rating.

I will not go into depth in this article about the many places where gear can be found with spell hit rating, as there are too many at all levels of raiding. All I will say is this: If you need spell hit rating in your gear, you have the ability to get it. Any place where you can raid, you can find gear with spell hit rating.

For gems, you have several options. Great Dawnstones (+8 spell hit rating) tend to be the ideal gem if you are quite a ways away from the spell hit cap. Or, Veiled Noble Topaz (+4 spell hit rating, +5 spell damage) is the way to go if you are very close to the spell hit cap.

As for enchants, the Enchant Gloves – Spellstrike (+15 spell hit rating) enchant is definitely the way to go to reach the hit cap.

So, to conclude …

With Elemental Precision as a talent, a raiding mage needs 164 spell hit rating. That 164 spell hit is the equivalent of approximately 275 spell damage.

Therefore, as a mage, if you are not at the spell hit cap, you can sacrifice up to approximately +25 spell damage in order to gain +15 spell hit rating.

Good luck out there, and I look forward to seeing you at the top of the damage charts (but don’t pull agro)

Next time … PvP as a PvE mage.


~ by Jack Shot on July 18, 2008.

6 Responses to “Mage Spell Hit Explained”

  1. Ahum… actually arcane isn’t so bad for raiding (especially if you want to not pull som much aggro, as you mentioned in the end). I myself am raiding as 40/0/21 in T5 instances, which gives a decent damage, at least when you have 2 T5 pieces. Being arcane you need a lot less of spell hit rating, it’s something like 76 if I remember it right. However – if you mix in some frostbolts in your spellrotation, because you lack mana-support in your raid (Shadowpriests and such), you could use a bit more, so your frost bolts will hit as well.

    I just wanted to remind that having 164 spellhit rating as an arcane mage is a total waste.

  2. Yes, you are correct. With the 2 piece tier 5 set bonus, Arcane is a viable raiding spec. However, it’s not all that common, and this column was more aimed more at the starting raider than at someone with 2 pieces of tier 5.

    I promise you that at some point in the future, I will address Arcane mage raiding.

  3. 2 thoughts/additions.
    1) Remember you don’t need max spell hit for 5 man bosses… they are only level 72.

    2) I think there is still a Ghost hit for frost spells with Elemental Precision, giving double the value.

  4. Arcane is good for spell hit obviously but still cannot compete with 10/48/3 for top end raiding. This said you must hit the spell hit cap for it to work well.
    samownall – World of Warcraft Blogger

  5. I was looking up some Hit info for my mage, stumbled on this, and it was perfect. Really well written and helpful. Thank you!

  6. Likewise. I just got turned down for a TK raid who was needing extra dps and I volunteered. Full Merciless/Vengeful gear all fully enchanted and gemmed. But I had too low of spell hit rating. Thus I decided to learn about it. Thank you for the information. Very helpful.

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