Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dragon 385, Class Acts: Wizard.

This march is turning out a month of awesome content in DDI. As a consequence of this, I haven't really been able to keep up with the rhythm in the blog - I like to write a review post for each outstanding article, but they kept piling up. So, a bit late, here is my first DDI review for the month... expect more in the following days!

Class Acts: Wizard is a brilliant article signed by Daniel Marthaler that manages the impossible: to make summoning attractive for wizard players. The formula? Some clever mechanical innovations that allow your summons to provide more tangible benefits (at a cost), and an extremelly compelling selection of summoned minions.

First, the new mechanics. The wizard summons originally introduced in Arcane Power were usually limited to more or less bland attacks that cost an standard action, and opportunity attacks that added a semblance of control. Not only were they rather weak, compared to the typical wizard daily (which is, by definition, excellent), but they also turned out pretty boring to play. To counter this, the new spells in this article eschew opportunity attacks for two new abilities: Symbiosis and Intrinsic Nature.

Symbiosis grants the wizard a continuous effect for as long as the summoned creature is present in the battlefield, meaning that even if a minion that stands back without making an attack, you get some bang for your buck. Symbiosis effects usually confer the wizard some of the qualities of the summoned monster, either improving is defenses, movement, or at-will attacks.

Then again, if your plan was to just let your minions stand back, you're up for a surprise. Intrinsic Nature is the wizard's answer to the Instinctive Effect of druidic summons - with a dangerous edge. A druid's pets would just attack their enemies while unattended. These arcane summons do this, too, but adding some nasty backlash for their careless master, who will take damage or suffer negative conditions each turn he forgets to give them some commands. This creates a very interesting tension, in that making your own attacks while letting the minion loose is the strongest offensive option, but takes a toll on the mage.

But all this might be for nothing, if the catalogue of extraplanar creatures was as bland as the one in Arcane Power. Forget about Fire Warriors and similarly bland creatures, though - this is the real deal. The new powers bring iconic and downright cool monsters, including Imps, Hell Hounds, Succubi, Marilith, and even a freaking Balor! Talk about spectacular...

The article has some balance issues, since a few spells (and the Succubus in particular) are probably too strong. But the designers have a good track record of fixing this kind of things at the monthly compilation, lately, so I have confidence that they will be addressed. Otherwise, this is a must read, and an excellent addition if your party includes a wizard, or someone who intends to multiclass into one.


  1. What? Succubus too strong? Never. I mean, what could POSSIBLY be overpowered about the ability to dominate until the end of your next turn every single round? Nothing I can think of. After all, Psions have that power as an at will at 27th leve-oh, wait, they don't.

  2. Come to think of it, rereading the article after modified for the Character Builder, Succubus is no longer the most OP option-Marilith is. Even then, it's not necessarily OMFG game breaking, but I'm personally very suspicious about any power that gives you multiple damage rolls per turn (I'm looking at you, rangers). I mean, even ignoring the fact that it's multiple damage rolls, that's 6d10 damage dice from a standard action per round. Then you add in:
    Intelligence modifier (x3)
    Weapon Focus and/or Energized (x3)
    Enhancement bonus from Implement (x3)
    Item Bonus to damage if using a staff of ruin (assuming it's not already banned) (x3)
    If you're being really savvy, Arcane Admixture and go Elemental Empowerment (Str x3) and then PMC Sorcerer (Str x3 + 2 x3). And that's each round. Of course, it does require a daily attack power... but Wizards get Arcane Mastery. So with Archmage, you can basically use that every encounter. Scary.

  3. Yep, after the errata, Marilith is the one to watch for. The damage it can put out is downright insane, and getting her to attack an enemy without spending your standard action isn't that difficult, making the effective damage boost even better. It should be changed to either remove the damage roll for each attack (say, a flat Int mod damage, or Int+Con against bloodied foes), or to get the Dual Strike treatment: change it from 3 attacks against a single target to 1 attack against up to 3 targets. I'd vote for the latter, since it looks much more wizardish.

    On the other hand, I really like the post-errata succubus - still a great attack against groups, not so much in boss battles.