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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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