Wednesday, November 4, 2009

RIP: Scorching Burst

(Update: As of March, 2010, Winged Horde has received errata that considerably reduces the power's damage. As a consequence of this, Scorching Burst becomes a legitimate option again, as the Wizard power of choice for area damage. Rise from your ashes, scorching burst!)

It seems it was only yesterday when I first opened my 4E Player's Handbook and read the Wizard class. I almost immediately fell in love with Scorching Burst, the straightforward, reliable area attack that could be used turn after turn. For me, this was what set apart the controller role (which at the time consisted exclusively of Wizards) from other classes. Later, I would learn of the subtle ways of the controller, and find that damaging a 3x3 area is far from the most powerful thing you could do with one. But I still stood by Scorching Burst, which brought fun for me, and pain for my enemies.

More rule books came, crowding the controller role, and the new powers put it clear that the original burst attack was no longer deemed good enough. Other classes became capable of creating bursts that were as damaging, but also imposed severe penalties on the targets. Even non-controllers were given better area attacks. Finally, some particularly strong prayers had the power of hurting hordes of foes that weren't confined in small spaces, without risk of hurting the attacker's allies. And yet, Scorching Burst endured, as Wizards had no better option for pure damage at range.

There was a brief glimmer of hope, found in tomes of Arcane Power, when Wizards discovered the way to Enlarge their bursts, and to combine them with Ice magic for lethal effects. I thought the old spell might, after all, find its place of power among controllers. But it was not to last.

The latest Class Acts article for Wizards in DDI (which, by the way, is easily among the best material I have read so far in the magazines, so you should definitely check it out) has signed the death sentence of Scorching Burst, with a new Wizard at-will (called Winged Horde) that improves the basic burst 1 attack in two very significant ways: it prevents targets from taking opportunity actions, and it no longer hurts friendly targets in the area. The new spell deals Psychic damage instead of Fire, but that won't stop most arcane users from writing it in their tomes.

Farewell, Scorching Burst. You were always my favourite Square Fireball. Somehow, I will miss your friendly fire.


  1. I have to disagree. You can't light ignite alcohol with Winged Hordes and my player's wizard likes to incinerate taverns. I expect to see Scorching Burst for a long time still.

  2. You can't ignite alcohol w/ a scorching blast either...

  3. Two words: Elemental Empowerment.

    Scorching Burst is the wave of the genasi. And while everyone may dislike genasi wizards who are on fire or stuff, because they like dark brooding mages who wield unspeakable arcane powers, once they realize that a voidsoul genasi is still a genasi, they'll come to see why Str + Int on controller powers as early as first level is pretty frickin' awesome.

    But yeah, I may end up house ruling scorching burst to be 1d8 in my game. 2d4 would be funny, except then Enlarge Spell would make it horrible.

  4. Actually scratch the -> d8 die idea. Assuming one isn't using Spell Mastery feats, Scorching Burst should have an improved effect against whoever is in the origin. 1d6 damage, or 2d6 against a target in the origin square. The tradeoff here is that, you're suddenly very party unfriendly. After all, if it's origin square is the enemy, there's no way to gracefully attack the enemy in melee without reach, and say goodbye to flanking. But I think that fits in perfectly with the Wizard's design.