Medievia Mudslinger

December 2nd, 2001

The Dao of Medievia Mages - By Sinsus

So you decided to become a mage. You're new to this class, and not sure how to play it. Here's where I come in. First, I'll explain a few general principles of magedom. Then we'll explore the mage in a number of specific situations.

Initially I must point out that there are two forms of mage. Below level 19, the mage is rather vulnerable unless formed with other people. Your low hit points and negligible melee abilities are a major drawback, and the rather potent array of spells you have available are only of use if you are still alive to cast them. You have no regenerative abilities other than resting or potions, but fortunately an experienced player can reach level 19 fairly easily. At this point your whole outlook changes as you then obtain the mana shield spell, and you can protect yourself quite adequately. The message is simple - stay formed as much as possible until level 19. The majority of this article is mostly directed to mages above level 19.

Mages in General

If mages were to have a corny corporate slogan, it would be: "Mages: we kill faster." Mages, with nasty room spells, multicasted shockwave (or a level-appropriate analogy), and fireshield, can dish out truly sickening amounts of damage. Mage damage is also very cheap in mana compared to equivalent cleric spells. (Compare the mana cost for hammer of faith and shockwave, or frost shards and harm). Mages also have malediction, which, dependent on the caster's mana, has the potential to do staggering amounts of damage.

However, this power is balanced by severe weaknesses. The mage has almost no defensive capability. The mage has a good base save vs spells, but naturally poor base hit points. A number of spells allow you to dispense with some armor equipment. The aforementioned malediction comes with its own restrictions and problems. The mage has no healing spells whatsoever - never forget this. Invisibility is mostly useful in avoiding annoyance mobs, the really dangerous ones can almost always see invisible players. The battle-avoidance spells (shield room, fear and sleep) are discussed later on in this article.

The primary regeneration method of mages is tied to quick killing - mana kickback. The mage, when dealing the death blow to a mob (or player) regains an amount of mana proportionate to the dissimilarity between alignments of mage and target. This adds a premium to killing more, more and more mobs. Basically, mages have a death fetish.

Kickback begins to get very interesting around level 19 when it can be used to top up your mana shield. The combination of the two nearly amounts to an automatic hp gain after each battle - this nicely makes up for the low base hit points. Here is when mage speed really kicks in - cheap, powerful spells (especially room spells - compare acid blast to firestorm) to kickback into manashield can enable our friendly mage to rest very rarely, compared to other classes.

The most important stats for a mage are intelligence, hit points, and mana. You must have 18 intelligence, or you'll flub spells far too often. Wear +int eq until you get a DC in the mail from Vryce (if mage is your first class), then train it up. There is some dispute over whether focusing your eq toward sickeningly huge amounts of mana or toward a hit point/mana balance is better. For general survivability purposes, I favor a balance. The reason is that damage that goes into your manashield takes more mana than it would take hitpoints without manashield, and fizzles at around 1/3 of your mana total. Excessive reliance on manashield tends to blunt your offensive capability, plus kill you very quickly when it fizzles. The only exception is when you are solo, have manashield, quite a lot of mana, and rooms full of many small or medium size mobs that you can kill without them fizzling your manashield (at about 1/3, it goes down). In those circumstances, by all means, go to mana mode, roomspell them all to death, let kickback feed the manashield, and watch all other classes go green with envy as you clear out the zone without resting at all. In either case, AC is also very important, for obvious reasons.

Most people agree that the wise mage chooses an evil alignment. Evil provides energy drain, a very useful spell for mid-combat mana recovery in a protracted battle, and much of the best high-level hit point/mana equipment. Go evil. If you do not go evil then go good - many mobs you meet are evil and this will give you the best kickback. Neutral is by far the worst, because you lose energy drain, have almost no good eq and get abysmal kickback to boot.

The Solo Xping Mage

The guiding principle of the solo mage is "don't bite off more than you can chew". You're not a cleric, with sanctuary and heal to help take on hard-hitting mobs, nor are you a thief with backstab, great ac and dodge, or a warrior with great hp and parry. You are a mage, and your only special protective function before level 27, manashield, takes away your damage-dealing capacity unless you work in some quick kills for kickback. In short, you will die if you mess with the big mobs. Think quantity, not quality. Kickback, and those devastating cheap room spells, indicate that you should be killing more smaller mobs faster than the other three classes. With invisibility and shield room there's little excuse to fight most of the huge ones.

My only other piece of advice is: avoid bashers, especially formed bashers. Bashers, every other round, can knock you to the ground with the hilt of their weapon, preventing you from casting or fleeing. If you must fight bashers for some reason, try to first take away their weapons. You take away their weapons by weakening them enough that they are forced to drop them. You have three spells, that can be used cumulatively, do this this. Plague will weaken them and do damage, and does not count as initiating a battle (ie. they won't attack you) unless they notice you trying to do it (like dispel magic, and like dispel magic, it doesn't always work). Chill touch will count as initiating a battle, it will do damage and maybe weaken them a little. Weaken also counts as initiating battle, does not do damage, but does weaken the opponent. Hopefully the combination of those three will make them too weak to hold their heavy weapons. Note also that you need to wait until they actually drop their weapons to avoid being bashed. For example, plague alone is enough to disarm one of the Kerstian Elites in Castle Medievia, but if you just plague them and then attack with roomspells, you will die. Plague, wait until you see them drop the weapons and only then attack with other spells. If it really comes down to the wire, use blind (does not initiate battle) or color spray (blinds, does damage, initiates battle) and curse (does initiate battle) to reduce their hitroll and hope that helps.

The Formed Mage

Here you have much less to fear. If you're formed with at least a tank (warrior/thief) and a cleric, you can take on anything. The tank will take the hits, the cleric will keep everyone healed, and you will wreak horrible bloody death on the mobs (and make everyone invisible, and shield room). I recommend against manashield in most forms - you shouldn't be in the front taking many hits, and the clerics can take care of what you get. In forms, you're dealing less deathblows for less kickback - all manashield does is take away valuable slaughtering mana. If you know that there are backstabbing mobs around then consider it unless you have phantasmal images handy.

The mage has some excellent spells which can play a useful supportive role in formed battle. Faerie Fire will reduce the opponent's AC, making them more vulnerable to the melee of your tanks. Curse will reduce their save versus spell, making them more vulnerable to your and the other casters, in addition to the effect I mentioned earlier of reducing their hitroll. The beauty of this sort of spell is the cumulative effect in a form - faerie fog will increase the hit rate of all your warriors and thieves with one cast. Colour spray or blindness will reduce their hitroll, and, more importantly, usually allow your form to flee and return without being attacked again. Plague, chill touch, and weaken will, as earlier mentioned, drastically reduce the target's strength.

Never forget your other spells that a formation can make use of. If your form contains a thief then you can create a multitude of traps to delay mobs with. You can use mass refresh, mass levitation and even mass invisibility to assist your form mates.

To Form or Not to Form?

Forming is nearly mandatory before level 19, when you have low hit points and no manashield. Forming is mandatory for trading (need a healer and tank), combing (need a tank and a peeker) and runs through hard zones above level 19. Forming can actually be detrimental for pure xp after level 19. If you stick to small zones, you can pull off the kickback-continuous-battling-without-rest trick. Under those circumstances, dragging a cleric or whoever along to steal your death blows and need to tick every three battles can really put a crimp in your style. The XP may be better per mob but the extra ticking time is too great a disadvantage in my opinion.

The Mage in PK

Obviously I shall only be discussing single class opponents here - multi classed opponents will be too complicated to fit in an article of this length. Generally, you can hold your own in pk as a single class mage. Fireshield is useful against all comers. A decent -SS is mandatory, as the first thing many pkers will do against a mage is blind. Mages can't cure blind, room spells don't work on players and targeted spells don't work while blind, therefore in PK a blind mage is a dead mage. Period. The only way for a blind mage to survive in pk is to run, and to keep running until it wears off. Against any caster, break out the fetal dragon skulls, the cords of black silk, the rings of magic resistance, and all the rest of your inventory that improves your saving versus spell. Of course, the converse is true - blinding your opponents is a wonderful way of spreading fear. Keep an eye on the [where] command. If you know the zone then you can appear, kill your prey, and be gone before they know what hit them.

Now, for some specific classes:

Mage vs. Mage

This is a race. First, to blind or dispel, and second, to kill. Don't dispel first - if you blind first then they're a sitting duck and you can dispel that fireshield at leisure. If you dispel first, however, they can still damage you. Besides, any good pker will cast a bunch of unnecessary spells (infravision, detect magic, breathe water, lev, etc. etc.) to lower the odds that the first dispel will get their fireshield, etc. If their -ss is too high to blind after a few tries, don't bother trying to dispel, just use your biggest damage spell as fast as possible.

Mage vs. Cleric

Avoid. They can blind you but cure their blindness; they can choose between sanctuary and fireshield; they can heal. This is the hardest battle by far - you'll spend several rounds trying to dispel their sanctuary, taking damage or losing mana in manashield all along, then they'll flee, heal, re-sanc, and come back. Eventually, you run out of mana and die. Avoid. The only way I know of to survive this is to catch them unawares and unsanced, and then malediction them to death.

Mage vs. Thief

Speed is the key here. The thief wants to sneak up on or ambush you and backstab you. Make them think twice and have fireshield up and always try to blind them if possible. For the higher-level mages, it's a lot of fun to watch a thief double bs-twist into your images. See them (use sense life potions) and engage first. They will try to flee for another shot at backstab. Follow them quickly, and hit then again. If you manage to keep the pressure on this way, success will come soon. Farsight and some +stamina item tend to help. Hope they're too busy trying to backstab to start tripping.

Mage vs. Warrior

A warrior is just a big thief without hide, sneak, track or backstab. Even bash only happens once every other round. Slap your fireshield up to punish that melee damage and put them out of their misery with the spell of your choice. If you're feeling playful, you can take advantage of their lousy -ss and plague, blind, and curse them first. Picking on single warriors is considered poor sportsmanship - they have enough troubles as it is.

Just about when you get sick of acid blast and shockwave, you'll hit level 31 and be ready to go to your next class. You have your eggs through your own efforts or purchasing them, but where do you go from here? Most people recommend cleric - most of your eq will carry over, and sanc and heal will more than make up for the loss of kickback and manashield. It also relieves the extreme annoyance of always being asked to "phase me," reminding clannies that no, you don't have phase yet, you're a mage, and then begging for summons. The only major downside is that you have to adjust to a completely different philosophy (comfort, not speed, as I discussed at the beginning of this article). Kickback withdrawal is a hard blow, but it would affect you on every class.

Another popular choice is thief - you still have a reasonable amount of mana, you add sneak and hide to your invisibility, and shield room-invis-peek-dodge is a combination made for combing. The philosophy remains the same, so you will still be able to watch mob after mob gleefully fall without having a chance to seriously threaten you. You will, however, need a lot of new equipment.

Don't ever go to warrior from single mage. Warriors have so little mana that you won't have many meaningful advantages over single warrior, except perhaps invisibility. Very little equipment will carry over to your new class. At this stage in your career it would be too much of a 'culture shock' - I'd advise against it heartily.

Miscellaneous Spell Notes:

Phantasmal images is possibly the most overrated spell in the game. It is an excellent way to buy yourself a couple of rounds to flee if you stumble into a room with a surprisingly hard mob. Also, it is the most entertaining backstab defense in the game. However, at 75 mana, they are also among your most expensive spells (only scry and malediction cost more), they lag you in the middle of an intense fight if you have to flee to cast them, and they just don't last very long in normal combat. Against a very hard mob even 8 images will last for two rounds at a maximum. PK, exploration and in preparation for a very large battle are the three uses for phantasmal images. Remember that magic missile will blow away your phantasmal images, and if they do that then they are probably preparing to maledict or backstab you. Recasting will only allow them to flee to do one of these things.

Fireshield is your pre-phantasmal backstab deterrent. If you are in the back of a form in PK, fireshield should always be on. Anyone foolish enough to attack you will die to your form mates. Generally, fireshield is useful for that extra few damage, especially in pk where the opponents have a similar number of hit points to you. (As opposed to large mobs, as in the catacombs, that flirt with 5 figures. Fireshield won't even dent a cave mist). If you have a choice between sanctuary (supplied by a friendly cleric, an item, or a previous class) and fireshield, take sanctuary except in that one PK situation mentioned earlier.

Conjure elemental is a gratuitously underrated spell. Elemental stones are easy to find - among other places, you can usually get an average of one per repop in Hornegs Keep, and in Castle Medievia. With the stone and the spell you have something most mages badly need - a tank. A multiclass mage/cleric has a tank that makes a very good target for sanctuary and heal. I have used elementals to particularly good effect combing as a single mage. Note, however, that elemetals do not mean that you can fight those three troll captains interrupting your trade run. That is what heroes are for. Trying to do that with elementals just means you lose a stone before you die.

Shield room has other uses than the traditional safe place to rest in a dangerous place. You can also use it to hem in obnoxious fleeing mobs (like the Dark Strider in Thanos) as a trap-alternative, and to slow down mobs factions (and keep your freight from moving too far when you lose it). Note that shield room will not stop demonlord dogs (it will slow them down), nor even slow down an evil dragon. Also, beware of using shield room with charmed mobs or elementals. Just because they are formed with you, that doesn't mean they can pass a room shield. This also suggests an interesting application in getting rid of co-dependent catacombs sprites. Finally, you can use shield room to protect yourself from angry mobs wandering in and aggressively attacking you or getting caught in your room spells. This is particularly useful in the ant farm in The Catacombs of Toshi to keep guard ants (who are very aggressive, very large, and can not see invisible) from wandering in in the midst of battle. I try and limit this kind of use, however, because of the 75 mana cost.

Invisibility can be used to make your weapons, and the weapons of your friends, harder to disarm. You can also make all your equipment invisible to worry newbies. Just be careful of two things. First, be sure to cast detect invisibility before throwing your equipment on with "wear all" after dying. If you do not then you will shuffle all the visible equipment you didn't want to wear for the invisible equipment you did, one-by-one. Second, the locate object spell does not find invisible equipment.

Fear has its uses. Ogres in the wilderness are particularly easy to fear, a useful fact to note for trade runs. If a mob is particularly difficult, it never hurts to give fear a try, though you should be prepared with an immediate shield room or fast movement in the opposite direction to prevent them coming back. If you can blind the mob before fearing them, you're nearly permanently safe. At a certain point, though, you've cast enough auxiliary spells on a target (blind, weaken (or colour spray/chill touch/plague), curse, faerie fog, sleep, fear, dispel magic) that you might as well just have killed them. I try to limit myself to the most necessary preparation spells (dispel magic for sanctuary/fireshield, plague/weaken/chill for bashers) unless I'm in a form, so as to save a little time and mana for murder.

Sleep is for baenlyrs. Some traditions are too important to eschew for mere expediency. Really, though, sleep is sometimes too random to be relied upon.

Energy drain is a beautiful spell, but unreliable. It will not work consistently enough to actually drain an opponent's mana to the point that their spell-casting is seriously impaired, unless you are in a very protracted battle, or fighting a warrior with a caster class in their past (where your energy drain may well eliminate their one shockwave or heal). However, it will give you that extra boost of mana you need to finish the battle. Remember that it can be used on non caster mobs (and players) as well as casters, if you're strapped for the mana. It often doesn't work (I'm happy if I get a third of castings successful) on harder mobs, so do not wait until you are down to your last 20 mana to use it.

Charm person, like conjure elemental, is an excellent tank-creation spell. The benefit is that you do not have to sacrifice an elemental stone, but the drawback is that you have to be in a zone with tanks of lower level than you.

Plague can damage an opponent to the tune of up to around a third in addition to weakening them, all without initiating combat. Many fights are started with this spell being cast.

Curse is mostly useful in forms. Curse initiates combat so you're sacrificing the opportunity to get a few shockwaves or blinding spells in first. It weakens the opponent's save vs. spells and hitroll which can make a lot of difference. Perhaps the best part is that it increases their chance of fumbling spells.

Minor creation is a moderately useful spell. You can use it to create traps for thieves, create quills and papers to send a quick note, and create bags to sell your eggs in when the wind comes.

Strength is useful, in conjunction with holding bags, wearing packs and keyrings, etc., to increase the number and weight of items you can carry. A few spare castings of this will render you immune to some of the effects of a plague being cast on you.

The utility of combat spells:

Magic missile -- practice, it's your only low-level damage, plus it eliminates phantasmal images

Burning hands/shocking grasp -- do not practice. They don't do much more damage than magic missile, plus are quickly made obsolete.

Lightning bolt -- practice, it is useful in rainstorms and holds you over until frost shards.

Fireball -- probably do not practice. Can't be used inside, less effective in the rain. Use Frost shards instead.

Frost shards -- practice. This will be your spell for many levels before shockwave.

Chain lightning -- maybe practice if you can afford it, I'd rather use oak staves for your roomspell until you get acid blast.

Needless to say, you should practice acid blast and shockwave.

Malediction really requires a more in-depth discussion of its aspects before you decide on whether or not to use it.

Firstly, you should know your target. Malediction is rather like placing your whole bankroll on one spin of the roulette wheel -- you either succeed completely or fail utterly. With that in mind, the wise maledicter will try and improve the odds. The best uses of malediction are:

1. Cherry picking, fear and intimidation. Someone is xping in your npk turf and stealing all your mobs. They are a couple levels lower than you. Malediction, like backstab, is wonderful for sending that "I can kill you at will, and you won't even have a fighting chance. Get out of my zone" message.

2. Formation battle initiation. If you are in a large, safe form, and want to start a big fight (say with a huge, named mob), malediction may substitute for backstab as a way to initiate combat with maximum damage. This is especially the case with unbackstable mobs.

3. Finishing blows. You've been fighting, fleeing, resting, fighting, fleeing, resting that mob for a while. It's clinging, it's blinded - it's time to finish the job.

4. Caster mobs, like caster players, often hit very hard but have few hit-points. You don't want to fight them. You want to get them out of your way. If you don't have the heart to sleep them or fear them, eliminate them with malediction. This works especially well for the entire variety of icky wilderness annoyances - banelyrs, sunsprites (sunsprites are easy), moon serpents - as long as you can get them before they engage you.

5. Fun. My favorite malediction moment has to be when I ran into an extremely obnoxious pker, with blood, low on hit points, sitting in the safety of the City of Medievia. I told him some newbie was shouting his name in Trellor, followed him through the portal, cast malediction on the astral plane, and killed him the moment I landed. There is no way I could have handled him in a fair fight. This is the sort of joy you can get from an insta-kill spell.

Maledict-flee-maledict-flee will not work for mages like it works for thieves and backstab - malediction damage is based on current mana, and consumes half your current resources. Each subsequent malediction will be much weaker, unless you have some very fast mana regeneration method (a room full of tiny mobs to acid blast for kickback springs to mind). Only a suicidal fool, or someone completely confident, will maledict in CPK without a lot of backup.

For a worthwhile malediction, have at least 900 mana. That will make the damage range for malediction between 400 and 800 hps, enough for the purposes outlined above. When I use malediction, I prefer to have about 1100 mana, for a 500-1000 damage yield.

Happy casting!

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