Thursday, 31 August 2017

Best Arcane Mage Sorcerer Spells Baldur's Gate BG and Baldur's Gate 2 BG2

Best Arcane Mage Sorcerer Spells - Baldur's Gate BG and Baldur's Gate 2 BG2



Lavok unleashes Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting (SCS)

• Web.
• Mirror Image.
• Blindness.
• Animate Dead.
• Skull Trap.

As with my three other recent write-ups, this one does not take into account the +difficulty associated with tactical mods such as SCS, Tactics or Ascension; it does not take into account changes and additions made by the Enhanced Edition or mods like Tutu and BGT; and it does not take into account extreme modes of play such as soloing, Ironman or major exploits. I might mention the odd exploit but it doesn't factor into the ranking.

Basically, spells are ranked based on what they offer to balanced parties over the course of the Bhaalspawn Saga, played by normal players. IOW, "best" means "core" and my rankings are comprised of the spells considered by me to be the most useful. Spells that are godly in both campaigns are ranked first and foremost.

Scroll availability (early and multiple itemizations of its scroll) and companion ability to cast the spell also factors in. If a spell can be combined with another or with itemization to increase its viability, all the better. Yes, Nahal's Reckless Dweomer is the most powerful spell by far but being unique to BG2 Charname Wild Mages it doesn't factor in; it's too niche.

Epic spells don't get much of a look-in due to being useful only in ToB, when quite a few of the lower-level spells are actually still useful, anyway.

To be clear, this post only pertains to the vanilla campaigns, as released and patched by BioWare. Most of the pics are taken from my current SCS run, though.

So, here they are, the best arcane spells of the Bhaalspawn Saga ranked in the order of their greatness!

Web: Wtf? A second circle spell is your number one pick - are you on crack? Ok, allow me to explain my reasoning. Enemy mobs caught within Web's expansive, caster-level-scaling AoE must make a save vs. spells at -2 penalty or be immobilized for 2 turns per caster level, with a save vs. spells allowed every round. That means that, unless the mob is innately immune to Web (e.g, spiders) or sports Free Action status, MR or Minor Globe of Invulnerability (all of which are rare), it's going to be haplessly immobilized and become easy pickings for direct damage AoE follow-ups such as Cloudkill, Ice Storm, Fireball and Skull Trap. Not to mention, with their AC voided ensnared enemies are going to be casually picked apart by ranged and melee attacks, the latter by virtue of Free Action status which is easy to get in both BG and BG2. In conjunction with Spider Spawn it's devastating, too (at caster level 12 the spiders scale into sword spiders that flaunt 5 ApR). Want to wade in yourself without Free Action? Cast Minor Globe of Invulnerability.

In addition, casting time is 2, Web stacks with itself and multiple castings of a second circle spell are inexpensive. Imoen, Aerie, Nalia, Jan, Edwin, Haer'Dalis - they can all cast Web over and over again to ensure that almost nothing moves. Furthermore, Web can be loaded into sequencers in order to guarantee that even epic mobs like Yaga-Shura's Fire Giants will not escape the deathtrap; instead, just standing there like gigantic idiots waiting to die. Most BG2 mobs tend not to resist multiple castings of Web but to be safe you can nerf their saving throws beforehand with Greater Malison, Blindness and Doom.

Below: Multiple Webs are unleashed by a tenth level party, then followed up with Skull Trap, Fireball, Ice Storm and Cloudkill. Nothing moves and nothing lives. Rinse & repeat for many of the tougher SoA encounters. SCS Mae'var: See here.



Web is just so elegant and tidy: with the mob neatly caught in its AoE you have the time to dream up all sorts of ways to finish them off - quickly or slowly and painfully, the choice is yours! Web is a godly spell from the start of BG to the end of BG2, and thus holds the place as the best spell in the Bhaalspawn Saga, overall.

Web is so supreme that it doesn't lose much value in SCS/Ascension! It's also the best spell in the IWD Series. In fact, why don't we just say it's the best spell on the Infinity Engine platform.

The first circle Sleep spell is also godly in BG but becomes all but useless against the high-HD foes of BG2; thus, it's only mentioned in a footnote. Emotion (or Emotion: Hopelessness in BG2) is better than Sleep in late BG but the same rule applies to Emotion in BG2.

Web in action at low level

• Mirror Image: A second circle illusion that is ranked above Stoneskin due to its invaluable utility in both campaigns. The ability to protect the caster against elemental AoEs in addition to physical attacks and their on-hit negative status effects such as level drain and brain devourings is another reason. Overall, Mirror Image is the simply the best protective spell in the Bhaalspawn Saga - despite being slightly nerfed in BG2. (It's also the best protective spell in the IWD Series.)

Right: Mirror Image and Magic Missile!

Update: Spotlight on Magic Missile.

• Blindness: Another godly illusion; this one a single-target debuff and disabler available in the first circle: the enemy must save vs. spells or be blinded for 10 turns with a -4 to-hit and 4 AC/Save penalty. Do I need to say anything more? Well, it vastly reduces the vision radius of the victim - from Greywolf to Firkraag - meaning they just stand there, looking completely lost, while the party wears them down with projectiles and direct damage spells. In fact, blinded dragons won't attack if you melee them with "reach weapons" like polearms (exploit). Throw Blindness into a Minor Sequencer along with another crippling spell such as Ray of Enfeeblement to turn THAC0 and dmg lords like dragons into harmless oversized butterflies. That's godly!

From Rogueknight 333: Blindness and Web are easy spells to underrate. With Sequencers and Contingencies one has an embarrassment of riches trying to figure out the best spells to use with them. 


Above: SCS Bodhi blinded. See here.

• Animate Dead: Uncapped summons, buffing potential, and the ability to wade into Stinking Cloud and Cloudkill due to being immune to their noxious fumes, means this fifth circle necromancy spell is the best summoning spell in BG, but it remains more than viable in BG2 - despite the five-unit cap - because the undead scale at caster level 15 into Skeleton Warriors that are capable of sustained tanking thanks to their solid AC, 90% MR, 50% resistance to slashing and piercing and immunity to mind-affecting. The 8 hour duration means they'll tank for you until dungeon's end: that's staying power. Much like the higher circle summons of Mordenkainen's Swords and Invisible Stalkers, a mob of buffed Skeleton Warriors will turn an illithid lair into pulp and paste in record time, whereas even an epic Planetar will likely be stunned and have its celestial brain eaten out. (Animate Dead is even better in pre-patched IWD2 because the undead scale into Festering Drowned Dead and Apocalyptic Boneguards, but I digress.)

Uncapped summons in BG

• Skull Trap: A third circle necromancy spell that inflicts magical damage and scales well with caster level; in fact, it's 1d6 per level - uncapped. You can instantly inflict 100 dmg on each member of a mob with a single casting of this vicious spell. BOOM. Lots of things just died.

Other than its scaling, the ability to preset the traps and lure the enemy into them is what sets it apart from most AoEs. Get low-level immunity to the skulls by casting Minor Globe of Invulnerability. In BG2 three Skull Traps can be loaded into the Spell Sequencer to inflict mega-damage. The best AoE in both BG and BG2, overall. Of course, BG2-only Sunfire is better against the rarer MR-based foes such as Drow and Illithid.

Skull Trap takes out two of the Warders in Durlag's Tower

Skull Trap - a third circle spell - takes out SCS Firkraag (multiple castings, ofc)

Chromatic Orb: The effects of this first circle evocation scale with the level of the caster, most notably inflicting paralysis in BG for 2 turns and insta-death in BG2 (caster level 12) just like the seventh circle spell, Finger of Death. Increase the chance of insta-death by casting saving throw debuffers on the intended victim beforehand; there are three to choose from and their effects stack: Greater Malison (-4), Blindness (-4) and Doom (-2 [Cleric]). A first circle spell that can insta-kill a dragon? That is godly.

From Chimaera: Glitterdust and Emotion don't lower saving throws, to my extent of knowledge. The only spells that can help with chromatic orb are greater malison and doom (but not slow), which means the enemy still gets a +3 to saves. (ED: Thanks for pointing that out. Entry fixed!)

Infravision: This godly first circle divination makes the enemies glow red in the dark for 10 whole turns! That is quite simply amazing. Yes, there is a Group Infravision option that does the same thing but are you hardcore or not? A godly, godly, GODLY spell. Oh, and yes, this is a joke entry. :P

From Rogueknight 333: Also, what do you mean about the Infravision entry being a joke? What if everyone in the party is human? Sure, that is unlikely, but it could happen. Then, without the spell, if you want to make your enemies glow in the dark you might have to use a potion, and it is important to make potions of Infravision even more useless than they already are. Did you think of that?

Minor Sequencer & Spell Sequencer: Fourth and seventh circle utility spells that are available in the early stages of BG2, sequencers can be pre-loaded with spell combos which can be unleashed with zero casting time. Dish out a double dose of Web (or Web and Stinking Cloud), self-buff with Mirror Image and Blur or party-buff with Bless and Chant (Cleric/Mage only) with the Minor Sequencer in the early stages of SoA. Later, utterly nerf mob saving throws with Greater Malison, Glitterdust and Slow, immobilize and torture mobs with a double dose of Web and one of Spider Spawn, or self-buff with Mirror Image, Stoneskin and Improved Invisibility - all thanks to the Spell Sequencer. Want to inflict non-trivial direct damage? Load it up with three Skull Traps or mix things up with a combo of Fireball, Ice Storm and Skull Trap; it's colorful! Thus, with the above considered, why should these two spells not be ranked as god-tier?
(Exploit: Wild Mage Chaos Shields also erroneously stack in sequencers for up to +75 to the surge roll.)

• Improved Invisibility: In BG2 this fourth circle illusion prevents you from being targeted by enemy spellcasters even as you whale away on them. You don't really need Spell Immunity: Divination or Abjuration because enemy spellcasters are probably going to be dead before they decide to try and reveal your presence. From memory, I believe this spell gives its advertised combat benefits in BG, but not in BG2.

Improved Haste: How does doubling your attack rate to a maximum of 10 ApR for one round per caster level up to 20 sound? In many cases one can forget the Greater Whirldwind HLA which lasts for one pathetic round and doesn't allow you to activate Critical Strike in conjunction (with CS only 5% of your attacks can miss and the ones that hit will inflict double damage unless the target is immune to them). Granting an epic attack rate almost straight out of the blocks and not losing its utility at the end of Throne of Bhaal, IH is a godly spell. Cast it on your summons and watch them level entire combat zones by themselves.

• Stoneskin: A fourth circle conjuration that allows the caster to troll physical-based damage dealers, since, with the exception of magical and rainbow, you won't take any damage until each and every skin has been hit through. The 12 hour duration is icing on the cake: you can rest for 8 hours and still have Stoneskin active for another 4. This spell is so useful that even the laziest player will always have it active.

• Protection From Magical Weapons: This sixth circle abjuration not only protects against magical weapons but also their on-hit elemental damage and on-hit negative status effects such as level drain - unlike Stoneskin. Plus, its limited four-round duration can be refreshed before the spell's expiration, making it godly. Of course, wise Mages and Sorcerers will also have Mirror Image and Stoneskin active, meaning they're invulnerable to physical attacks.

• Breach: A mandatory fifth circle abjuration if one wishes to strip spellcasters of their obnoxious combat, elemental and magical protections such as Stoneskin and PfMW, but against liches, who are immune to spells of fifth circle and below, you will have to unleash the likes of Pierce Magic and Spell Strike.

• True Sight: You need a way to bring invisible enemy Mages and illusion-based monsters out of their safe spaces. This indispensable sixth circle Divination does just that, and for one whole turn - which is long enough to lay down the smack. Good bye Shadow Door. True Sight is also party-friendly.

Melf's Minute Meteors: It's basically just like firing a magical sling. The meteors set caster ApR to 5 (10 under Improved Haste), strike as +6 weapons (they penetrate Absolute Immunity) and inflict mundane, magical and fire (for a max of 7 dmg or 14 dmg on a crit). A third circle spell that can hit and damage anything in the game? Godly.

Below: MMM in action against SCS golems. Who needs Lower Resistance and Pierce Shield? See here.


• Project Image: Exploitative breaking of the summon and trap-setting caps aside (5 and 7, respectively), it's the expanded spells, special abilities and items alone that demands this seventh level illusion be highly ranked. An insanely powerful spell for a middling circle. The sixth circle Mislead illusion is also obscene in that Mage/Thieves can get off infinite backstabs while under its effect. Don't use either of these godly illusions if you want the game to be remotely challenging.

• Mordenkainen's Sword: A seventh level evocation that summons physically immune +4 blades of death that hit with Titan strength and can be buffed with Improved Haste, Mord Swords come in second to Animate Dead for a couple of reasons: the spell duration is short until you get some levels under your belt and they don't see as much use as they are only available in BG2. That said, they are the strongest summon - stronger than Summon Planetar in most cases due to their "invincibility" and the ability to summon more than one. (Yes, the Planetar summon cap of one can be broken through with Project Image but I'm not ranking exploits.) Mord Swords can be scary when summoned against you until you realize they can be vanquished with the Death Spell, Death Fog or even mere Magic Missiles.

• Spell Trigger & Chain Contingency: Eighth and ninth circle evocations that are similar to sequencers in that you preload them with spells; the difference being that they fire automatically based on a condition set by the player such as "See Enemy" or "caster at 50% HPs".

Load up Spell Triggers with a triple dose of MR-bypassing Sunfire to scorch and flatten mobs of Drow and Illithid. Throw out an array of meatshields, at-will. How about a combo of Mislead, Tenser's Transformation and Improved Haste? Cleric/Mages can of course mix in their divine repertoire such as Righteous Magic, Holy Power and DUHM. The sky is the limit here.

Chain Contingency-wise, the choices are extremely powerful and manifold. How about three Project Images - can you say "cheese"? Loading up on Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wiltings results in a nuke that is second only to "Improved Alacrity ADHW x4". Debuff with Pierce Shield, reload the chain a few times and you might even drop the Ravager with your spellcaster - single-handedly. Enough said!

• Summon (Dark) Planetar: A tenth level HLA spell which is great for lazy players: just sit back and watch this juggernaut go to town on mobs with its on-hit 25% vorpal and Dispel Silver Sword arcing back and forth at 6 ApR under Improved Haste, buffed with Globe of Blades. Being gated and not summoned the Planetar is also immune to the Death Spell. To top it off, the Planetar has access its own extensive divine and arcane repertoire that it doesn't hesitate to unleash; the Good-aligned version can even Heal itself. Sit back, and enjoy the show.

Improved Alacrity: Set Auto-pause: On Spell Cast and wear the Robe of Vecna and Amulet of Power to unload your entire spellbook on the aggro. Dear me. 

Energy Blades: A step up from MMM, Energy Blades grant +10 THAC0, inflict 1D4+5+1d10 electrical damage and set your ApR to 9.

Time Stop? It's rarely useful in party-based games; just roll with IA so that your other party members aren't locked out. Overrated due to the prevalence of soloists on public venues.

From Rogueknight 333: Energy Blades over Time Stop? Really? Ironically, given your parameters, I could maybe see Energy Blades being valuable in a solo game, but in a party why do you really need a spell that basically just temporarily turns your caster into a warrior?
It is true that Time Stop could lower overall DPS by incapacitating the rest of the party, and one might be taken off guard by the occasional super-boss who is immune to it, but it can also be a life saver. It is good for both defense and offense, making it both powerful and versatile.
My response: tbqh, the ninth and tenth circle bore the crap out of me (as does the game itself by that stage) and I don't care for them. You're right in that Time Stop deserves a place over EB, though. In retrospect I would have only listed Planetar, CC and IA.

Why didn't you list Lower Resistance? It's an overrated spell that isn't even needed in arcane solos of the original BG2, much less party-based games. By the time you feel the need to lower a foe's magic resistance, LR will be useless and you will need to employ Pierce Shield (Ravager, Demogorgon).

Spell Trap? SotM Spell Trap lasts 8 hours... besides, it's not core.

Shapechange: Mindflayer? Ok, that's pretty awesome but it's total cheese. :P

I hope that by mentioning Greater Malison a few times that I have not underrated it, but there is no need to give it a specific entry after doing so; it's clearly "core"!

The Death Spell: supreme in certain situations

EoP

14 comments:

  1. DungeonDelver840August 31, 2017

    Thanks for another fantastic post! I've read your other Baldur's Gate content too and its all top notch. Despite its age, Baldur's Gate is my favorite RPG, and your site has become one of the best resources for the game -- keep it coming!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks for the kind words, DungeonDelver840!

      Delete
  2. Wish is very powerful if you get lucky so you can rest in no time. Helped me alot in Tactics Irenicus battle.

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    Replies
    1. Which reminds me, I *wish* I could motivate myself to reprise my SCS/Acsension walkthrough!

      Delete
  3. Energy Blades over Time Stop? Really? Ironically, given your pararmeters, I could maybe see Energy Blades being valuable in a solo game, but in a party why do you really need a spell that basically just temporarily turns your caster into a warrior?
    It is true that Time Stop could lower overall DPS by incapacitating the rest of the party, and one might be taken off guard by the occasional super-boss who is immune to it, but it can also be a life saver. It is good for both defense and offense, making it both powerful and versatile.

    Also what do you mean about the Infravision entry being a joke? What if everyone in the party is human? Sure, that is unlikely, but it could happen. Then, without the spell, if you want to make your enemies glow in the dark you might have to use a potion, and it is important to make potions of Infravision even more useless than they already are. Did you think of that?

    Blindness and Web are easy spell to underrate. With Sequencers and Contingencies one has an embarrasment of riches trying to figure out the best spells to use with them.

    One thing to consider in discussing best spells in general is that this can to some extent be relative to one's party composition and style of play, e.g., someone fond of letting the party's melee warriors rush in might be a bit wary of using AOE spells.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. tbqh, the ninth and tenth circle bore the crap out of me (as does the game itself by that stage) and I don't care for them. You're right in that Time Stop deserves a place over EB, though. In retrospect I would have only listed Planetar, CC and IA.

      Delete
    2. I know what you mean, ToB was not as good as the earlier installments, and it does get hard to keep track of all the OP spells and HLAs one can throw around by that point. Since Time Stop is most useful in emergencies (maybe a waste of time when everything is under control, but good for turning the tables if it is not) and IA can be overkill, one could make a case that Energy Blades will be as good as anything else one could cast in many fights. It also might be a pretty good spell for Cleric, but I am not sure about that (it has been awhile and I cannot remember off the top of my head what other max level spells they have).

      Delete
    3. I haven't played ToB seriously in ages and I really ought to reprise my SCS/Ascension walkthrough in order to brush away the cobwebs in my brain in relation to BG2, but I dislike almost every aspect of ToB - from its HLAs to the fundamentals of its campaign design: it just wasn't fun for me.

      "Best Divine Spells - BG and BG2" is in the pipeline.

      Delete
  4. Lilura are you going to write more about Underrail? Did you finish it? I didn't. I'm not a fan of the game. 1 of the reasons I don't like it is the tremendous amount of inventory management involved.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I went back to Jagged Alliance 2 soon after starting it, so no. I don't see myself ever getting into it again. Walkspeed killed it for me - and yeah, inventory management, too. I hear the sequel or expansion will have jetskis; hardly a big selling point for me.

      Delete
  5. Glitterdust and Emotion don't lower saving throws, to my extent of knowledge. The only spells that can help with chromatic orb are greater malison and doom (but not slow), which means the enemy still gets a +3 to saves.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for bringing that error to my attention. Fixed.

      Delete
  6. One of the best underrated spells is Shocking Grasp. Many players do not grasp the fact that this spell is also uncapped, it deals electricity damage (and by default all IE enemies have lousy electrical resistance) and "always hits". In fact is even more useful in IWD1 (original not baldurized EE version) because it can hit from a distance. Is one of the best spells to use for a melee FM or TM or FMT or Bard.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, I agree with Shocking Grasp being underrated; thanks for mentioning it.

      Delete

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