Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spell Mastery feats for Wizards

A while ago, when we had a first glimpse at Player's Handbook 2 controllers, there was some discussion on the relative lack of controlling mechanics in Wizard at-will powers.4E developer Mike Mearls joined the conversation, suggesting that those at-wills (even Scorching Burst) are slightly below baseline. While I personally think that most of these powers (except the weak Ray of Frost and the pointless Magic Missile) are fine, I won't deny there is room for improvement.

Inspired by power-specific Implements (such as Master's Wands) from Adventurer's Vault, I have designed a cycle of Wizard feats that allow you to customize your at-wills. You can see them below:

A few comments on them:

These are slightly on the powerful side, and they would have been definitely playable without the damage bonus. However, I like the idea that, through these free, untyped bonuses, the energy type of a Wizard's at-wills becomes much more relevant. Such a bonus puts to shame Weapon Focus wanabee feats, like Astral Fire, but, to be honest, they deserve the shame.

I have tried to make the power bonuses different from those granted by special implements, as well as stackable with them. Nevertheless, there were great ideas, like the Magic Missile push or Scorching Burst having extra damage in the middle, that I just had to take as is. Finally, I wanted to encourage secondary abilities other than Wisdom, which was *one of the things I missed the most in the PHB Wizard.

Oh, and my improved Ray of Frost may, or may not, be a powerhouse. Single-target attacks need really good effects to be worthwhile for a Wizard, and I'd like builds without area at-wills to be decent, if not great.

May your Scorching Bursts be full with enemies.


  1. I love wizards and play them all the time. I don't really think they need any power ups. With their wide array of options and low dependency on secondary stats (unless they're orb mages, in which case, WHY ARE YOU IMPROVING ORB MAGES?!) they can qualify for a lot of things without hurting their primary operation.

    Personally though, I think if you're going to try spell mastery, just duplicate the Msater's Wand of Etc wands. No one uses those. Seriously, I've never seen anyone seriously wield a wand. And now that there's Corellon's Boon of Arcane Might out there, wands are even more superfluous. But the Master's Wands effects were actually really awesome.

    What I would do is make each Spell Mastery feat grant a feat bonus to damage rolls of, let's just say +2. Then increase by +1 per tier. You *could* go to +2/+4/+6 but that's probably superfluous.

  2. Scorching burst is at-will fire versus things like trolls. Ray of frost is at-will control: slowing a monster to prevent escape or to give more time for the ranger to kill it before it closes. Thunderwave is a terrific wizardly defense and has many other uses.

    In sum, I do not know why these at-will powers need this much improvement, certainly not untyped damage bonuses. I do like the wand inspired effects however.

  3. Although wizards as a class are in pretty good shape, some of their at-wills, and particularly those in the PHB, are fairly underpowered for the current standards.

    Forget for a moment the fact that this article suggests that Thunderwave may need any kind of improvement (since it remains, to these days, one of the best controller at-wills in the game). The sad truth is that the other powers covered here have really fallen behind compared to modern options (or any options released from PHB2 onwards, for that matter.

    Scorching Burst, as much as I love it, has two straight upgrades in the Wizard spell list in Freezing Burst and Stone Blood. The highly situational benefits of dealing fire damage do not (outside of very niche builds) make up for the potential to slow or slide targets on a hit. The same applies to Ray of Frost, which compares miserably to area-slowing attack Stone Blood. And so on.

    It is unfortunate that I have so little time to update the blog these days, as the issue of at-will power level is one that I intend to cover in my article series about at-wills. Suffice to say, I keep a spreadsheet with all at-wills in the game (which I'd like to share in the blog, when I have the time) which includes patches to many powers to change their power level into what I perceive to be the right spot. The bar for controller powers is set very high, and of the attacks discussed in this article, only Thunderwave gets it right, in my opinion.