Archmage specialization effectiveness
This page compares the effectiveness of the various Archmage specialization choices. As DDO can be played in many different ways, this is by no means a "must have" definition, but more a guide to help you on selecting the path you like most.
The core difference between a Wizard and a Sorcerer is plain damage. No matter how you specialize, a pure Sorcerer will always out-deal a pure Wizard, as he has a higher base spell level (thanks to the Savant tree), more spell points and a lower cost in general. The advantage of the Wizard however is that he can do much more than just dishing out high damage numbers, and in general is considered more of a supporter than a dealer. This should be kept in mind when deciding for a specialization.
In addition the Wizard's strongest ability is preparation. If you know what lays ahead, you can select your spells carefully to adapt to it and your group. So while a single specialization line might not be overly useful on its own, no one is forcing you to stick with it single-minded. You can always select other spells that fit the situation and then add to it by using your specialized abilities. A prepared Wizard can be a deadly opponent and can turn very difficult fights into effortless ones.
While at first Abjuration seems pointless, its use becomes more clear in higher level dungeons. You will often encounter Outsiders which can be "killed" with a successful Banishment or Dismissal spell, and it is not uncommon for enemy casters in epic difficulty to cast very harmful enchantments or transmutations like Flesh to Stone, or protection spells like an improved Stoneskin that make a fight much more difficult if those cannot be dealt with properly by using a Dispel Magic variant or even a Mordenkainen's Disjunction. That said this spell line is however still somewhat under-performing except for the few moments where it really shines.
- Shield: Probably the weakest ability of all schools, as the spell is not only very cheap to cast on your own, but is as well available from the Eldritch Knight tree in an improved form.
- Resist Energy: While this is available as well very early as a spell, the reduced cost in combination with the Extend meta-magic makes this somewhat useful to buff yourself and your party. Especially since death removes all those precious ship buffs, leaving the player often without any magic protection.
- Protection from Energy: The ability to give yourself or a group member an up to 120 points damage protection against a single element whenever you feel like surely comes in handy in many quests. Often this allows you to just walk through traps or enemy fire without being harmed and can be a true lifesaver.
- Stoneskin: Probably the strongest protection spell that this line offers, especially since you ignore the expensive cost of 29.5 pp per cast you had otherwise. Casting this repeatedly will surely make yourself some friends with the squishy classes in your party.
- Dismissal: The ability to destroy any Outsider with a single cast will be very helpful, especially in quests that feature a lot of them. Used together with the Heighten meta-magic this can become more destructive than any fire-ball could ever be, while however being much less versatile.
While the summon spells from the Conjuration school cannot be improved with this selection, it will increase the DC of some offensive spells like Acid Rain, utility spells like Glitterdust or the expensive save-or-die spell Trap the Soul, which makes this line more of a Jack-of-All-Trades selection compared to the others, but spells often come with a side-effect that needs to be dealt with. The probably strongest spell Power Word: Kill does not allow a save, so it does not benefit from this line.
- Grease: If you love to see your party members helplessly slipping over a greased surface while cursing you in chat, do cast this, otherwise don't. As Heighten does not work on it, enemies will simply resist, and the 2d6 damage from igniting the grease is just not worth casting it.
- Web: This is an excellent crowd-control spell especially with the free Heighten, however the very popular fire spells will destroy the effect automatically, which somewhat limits its use.
- Stinking Cloud: A somewhat useful spell to disable enemies casters with a low fortitude save. The visuals however make it difficult for you and your party to navigate, and the free 20% miss chance even for your enemies thanks to concealment can be annoying, but also beneficial for your group.
- Dimension Door: While it can save you some time otherwise spent on watching the recall/finish timer, or get you out of some areas if you are stuck, this spell is generally of low value, but nice to have.
- Cloudkill: A combination of Stinking Cloud with an Acid Rain and a very long duration allows you to damage enemies in a large area while simultaneously debuffing them. The downside is that Empower and Maximize cannot be used, which makes the damage significantly lower than other offensive spells. It as well does no damage to creatures immune to poison, which includes almost all undead. This makes it a useful but not overly powerful spell.
Enchantment is the main crowd-control school, offering the Wizard a large selection of spells to debuff enemies like Crushing Despair or Touch of Idiocy, hinder them with Hold Monster or Otto's Irresistible Dance or make them fight for you with Charm Monster or Suggestion. While the ability to control enemies is outstanding, this line offers no offensive spells, leaving you with what you have from unspecialized schools. In addition charming a mob is much less powerful than it sounds, as enemies do very low damage compared to the health they have, or (on epic difficulty) have a built-in reduction of charm duration or (most bosses) are flat immune. But watching a group of megalomaniac devils dance for you instead of taking over the world is still all worth it.
When it comes to crowd-control your spell DC is everything. If you decide for this school, you must invest everything possible into getting your DC as high as you can, as otherwise spells from this school will simply fail with no effect. Casting Enchantment spells with a low DC is the same as being afk, just with a much higher spell point cost.
- Hypnotism: While the crowd-control effect is negligible with only 6 seconds duration and since it breaks on damage, it still can be a quick lifesaver. In addition it lowers the will save of the enemy by 3 (even on fail), which can be beneficial for other control effects.
- Otto's Resistible Dance: One of the most powerful single-target control effects, as it can be cast on almost all enemies. The downside is that it only has a range of Touch, which makes it difficult to apply in certain combat situations.
- Hold Person: A ranged paralyze effect that only works on humanoid targets and allows a will-save every 3 seconds. If you have a very high DC and face the right enemies it turns a difficult fight into an effortless one.
- Charm Monster: Nothing can turn a fight like having the enemy fight for you instead. While enemies cannot be expected to wipe out their group as of the low damage compared to their health, it allows you to take out any type of enemy very effectively and deal with it later.
- Hold Monster: The more broad version of Hold Person, which can be cast on any type of enemy. If your DC is high enough, any (non-boss) enemy can be killed effortlessly.
Evocation is a very straightforward direct damage school with little to no utility. Most spells allow a save for half or no damage, but otherwise just apply X points of damage, modified by Empower and Maximize meta-magics. Notable examples are: Wall of Fire, which has a very long duration and can deal a very high amount of damage if your enemy lives long enough, Chain Lightning which can erase an entire group of enemies without even having to target (or sometimes even see) them, and Prismatic Spray which doesn't entirely focus on damage, but as well offers several other effects while being somewhat random.
The downside of being an Evocation focused Wizard is that any Sorcerer will do your job much better than you ever could. They deal more damage, have more spell points and get better spell-like-abilities than you do, leaving you the only benefit to swap out spells and damage types according to the enemies you are going to face.
- Magic Missile: Probably the most iconic damage spell in D&D allows you to deal a moderate amount of force damage with no save and (almost) no chance to miss. The only drawback is that the damage is somewhat low on higher levels, but then it only costs you 2 spell points.
- Gust of Wind: This spell is one of the few utility spells in this school, allowing you to knock enemies prone briefly and remove lingering effects like Cloudkill, Otto's Sphere of Dancing and Wall of Fire. Other than that, the effect is rarely of use, but it is nice to have it just in case.
- Chain Missile: As an improved version of Magic Missile, this spell allows you to do a solid amount of force damage with a minor AE effect after hitting the primary target. As of the damage correction with a recent update, it is no longer the main damage source, but still very effective.
- Fire Shield: This is a rather questionable damage spell, as it requires that you are attacked in melee, which is generally something Wizards try to avoid. The probably best part of the spell is the 50% cold/fire resistance that it adds, which can be tremendously useful in some quests.
- Cyclonic Blast: A cone shaped, high damage spell that as well includes all the benefits of Gust of Wind, which as well is the only drawback, as you inevitably remove all lingering effects (like Walls of Fire) from your party members as well. Still a very solid high damage spell with a good utility.
One might wonder if this School only exists for the sake of completion, as it only contains 7 spells, where most of them are considered fluff than actually being useful. If you specialize in this school you will be using the spell Phantasmal Killer most of the time, as it is the only relevant spell that benefits from this specialization. While Hypnotic Pattern in theory is a nice crowd control spell, the visual effect makes it very undesired and party members will often ask you to not use it, especially those who are susceptible to epilepsy.
In addition any enemy under the effect of True Seeing will completely ignore all spells from this school, and if your do not focus entirely on getting your DC as high as possible, your main spell Phantasmal Killer will have no effect.
- Invisibility: It sounds great to be able to become invisible at will, and sometimes it prevents enemies from targeting you properly. However enemies can still hear you and with their usually ridiculously high listen skills you often won't notice any effect of this spell, unless you have a very high Move Silently skill plus appropriate items as well.
- Blur: A good buff for damage reduction, although it as well available as a spell and pretty cheap anyways. Enemies under the effect of True Seeing (which includes most bosses) completely ignore this effect.
- Displacement: As Blur just with a 50% miss chance, but only for yourself. A good self-protection, except against those with True Seeing.
- Phantasmal Killer: As written above, this is your main spell from this line. As it is a SLA and the extra cost of meta-magics do not apply, Enlarge, Heighten and Quicken it, then kill one enemy every 6 seconds if your DC is high enough.
- Shadow Walk: A nice spell to move faster, but since it breaks on attacking and comes with a significantly hindering change of vision, it is only rarely useful.
Necromancy, the evil art of debuffing or flat killing of enemies, is a very popular choice for Wizards. It offers many powerful spells like Finger of Death or Wail of the Banshee, the ability to control the undead with spells like Control Undead or Halt Undead and powerful debuffs like Energy Drain or Scare. The downside is that almost all spells have no effect if the target succeeds on a save, so unless you do everything possible to increase your DC, you will burn through your spell points without contributing anything to your group. In addition many of the more powerful spells as well have a very long cool-down, which requires some cooperation with your group to use them for a maximum effect, and you have to deal with the high spell points cost of many spells, as you need to heighten them to get any effect at all. Other than that undead are ironically your most difficult enemies to deal with, as there are barely any spells to actually kill them.
- Chill Touch: While it sounds like a minor damage spell, it is actually the only one from this line that allows you to use meta-magic feats like Empower or Maximize for a solid amount of damage. In addition it allows you to scare away undead that you can otherwise not kill with most of your spells.
- Command Undead: Bringing an undead enemy under your control is often a good way of crowd-controlling enemy groups by taking out the most powerful ones and deal with them later. However it only works on undead, which significantly limits its use, and most enemies do not deal much damage compared to their health, which further limits the effect.
- Halt Undead: An area effect crowd-control spell against undead, which is mostly useful because you often cannot otherwise affect them, as most of your instant-death spells only work on living target. But again: only works on undead, which significantly limits its use.
- Enervation: This spell is one of the core debuffing spells, allowing you to turn tough fights into manageable ones by debuffing everything on the enemy through the loss of levels. The effect is however much less noticeably that you would expect, as most enemies have hidden built-in bonus scores that you cannot remove, but still this is a spell that should not be underestimated.
- Waves of Fatigue: An interesting crow-control spell that sadly effectively only reduces movement speed, but at least has a very long duration. Somewhat useful when kiting enemies, however in most situations it offers close to no effect.
While being questionable as a choice for specialization since most spells do not even require a saving throw, Transmutation offers several handy tools for you and your group. Many buffing spells like Death Ward, Knock or Haste will make dungeoneering a lot easier, in addition this school offers some offensive spells like Slow or the all-powerful Disintegrate as well. The downside is that you do not gain much compared to an unspecialized Wizard, but still it can be a good choice for a supporter if used the right way.
- Jump: This spell allows you to jump higher, feel less clumsy and solve some puzzles easier or discover secrets that otherwise would require a high jump skill on the entire party. Nice but not overly effective, especially since many players tend to carry potions of Jump with them.
- Knock: If you do not happen to have a Rogue around, this is the second-best alternative to gain extra treasure or open secret areas. However it is only a utility spell, as opening a lock is almost never required to complete a dungeon.
- Haste: Although the effect isn't game changing, it is often very desired by your group. It allows you to run faster and attack faster, which makes several encounters easier just because it is easier to evade enemy effects. As this can be enhanced with Extend without further cost, you can keep your group moving at maximum speed without running out of spell points (and even beyond that).
- Stone to Flesh: The bad thing about this ability is that there is rarely anyone casting a Flesh to Stone spell successfully on your party, the good thing however is that in this particular case you have this spell ready without having to waste a spell slot on it. And the target will be thankful for not having to stand around stoned for a full minute or more.
- Flesh to Stone: A very powerful single-target crowd-control spell against fleshy targets, that can render an enemy helpless and works wonders against pesky enemy casters. The downside is that you need to have a very high DC on this spell as otherwise the effect is completely negated, while often a high Transmutation DC offers no benefit.