Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Baldur's Gate 2 BG2 Ascension & Sword Coast Stratagems Arcane Mage Party Guide Walkthrough Part IV

Baldur's Gate 2 BG2 Ascension & Sword Coast Stratagems Arcane Mage Party Guide Walkthrough Part IV

(Continuing from Part III)

Ok, it's time to venture forth into three of the hardest areas of the second and third chapters; namely, the Beholder Lair, the Planar Sphere and the Planar Prison. Take them on in whichever order you like, but I wouldn't go into the Planar Sphere or Planar Prison without first breaking into the seventh circle for Ruby Ray of Reversal. The reason? You will be up against Lavok and Tolgerias: two epic Mages that employ Spell Trap to make themselves all but immortal.

The Cult of the Unseeing Eye

We unlocked this quest at the start of our adventure because we needed to unlock the Sir Sarles quest to get IMoD, but now it's time to deal with the beholder cult on behalf of Helm.

While you're down in the sewers you might as well slay the rakshasa for the Cloak of the Sewers and free Haer'Dalis from the clutches of Mekrath, who is about on par with the Cowled Wizard, Rayic. At this point I simply send Haer'Dalis to the theater beneath the Five Flagons; I'll choose whether or not to recruit him after we're done with the Planar Sphere.

Also accessible from the sewers, the illithid lair will be covered in the next post; it's incredibly difficult.

• Smarter Beholders. The Beholder has used its telekinesis power to snatch the Shield of Balduran from your arm.

◦ That's right, the Shield of Balduran is unreliable against Beholders because they will simply take it from you. To get it back you will have to slay them. And while it nullifies Gauths to the point of them trying to feebly munch on you instead, Gauths aren't the problem are they...

Below: Loathsome.

◦ Beholders are probably the most loathed of all BG2 enemies. First, their anti-magic ray inflicts spell failure on your Mages and their death ray is capable of outright killing them; second, they fire off spells as innate abilities which means they fire them rapidly and without limit. And the worse part is? In my SCS setup, their attacks will just burn through your spell protections like they are nothing. That means Spell Immunity: Abjuration (ward: anti-magic ray) and Spell Turning (reflect rays back to their source) will simply be dispelled. Thus, at the end of the day, beholders are best dealt with by stacking noxious AoEs such as Cloudkill and its big brother, Death Fog.

Ooh, pretty colors!
◦ The first mob of beholders are encountered en route to the underground temple. In the above left pic, Jan scouts out three Beholders and two Gauths camped out on the far side of the riddle-bridge. Rubbing their hands together, the party simply nukes the location with Death Fog and Cloudkill, resulting in an easy 60k XP. Wait! Isn't that cheesy? I don't see how. They try to track the party but die from the stacked AoEs before they can get clear of them. It's a legitimate tactic.

◦ Gain access to the lower reaches of the cultist H.Q and destroy the Greater Mummy and Bone Golem lurking in the undead cave (high level parties may encounter a lich); then, make your way to the Beholder Lair itself. Again, have Jan scout out the beholder mob and then unleash Death Fog for another easy 60k. Despite buffing themselves the mob of blind priests don't put up much of a fight (28k).

The Unseeing Eye. Assembling the Rift Device triggers this custom Elder Orb to spawn in the immediate vicinity. Fire the Rift Device to make it mortal again and reduce it to "Badly Injured" status, but it will fire off  a contingency that calls forth a duo of Eye Tyrants regardless. Now, you need to drop them quickly before they have a chance to do all sorts of awful things to you; ergo, release a couple of Sequencers loaded with Skull Trap x3 (58k). Yes, that's an ideal setup that you might not have at your disposal, but I consistently owned them without Sequencers or the Shield of Balduran, too, so it can be done - it just takes good timing.

Those guys stank of nasty. Glad they're dead. Let's get out of this awful place!

The Planar Sphere

The Planar Sphere must be opened by Valygar or at least his corpse; there is no other way inside. Either temporarily recruit Valygar or slay him: alive or dead, his body is the key to the front door of the sphere. Do not deliver the corpse to Tolgerias because you will be locked out of the sphere forever and miss out on XP, all kinds of goodies and the Mage stronghold which nets you a second Ring of Wizardry and an ADHW scroll.

Now, it's important to note that activating the sphere's planar travel represents a point of no return: for reasons that should be obvious, we can't just walk out of the sphere and back into Athkatla to do a lil' shopping whenever we like. Thus, we need to be prepared for what's inside. To repeat, don't go into the Planar Sphere without first breaking into the seventh circle for Ruby Ray of Reversal because Lavok and Tolgerias employ Spell Trap. The Robe of Vecna won't go astray either.

I have been denied the material plane! I will have my REVENGE!

Being a necromancer, Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting is Lavok's shtick

• Navigation room: Necromancer Lavok. With the exception of the Halfling Mage who is about on par with Rayic and Mekrath, the encounters in the Sphere are pretty tame until we face off against Lavok, an epic-level Necro who is totally out of our league.
This guy is a badass

◦ This guy is a major pain in the ass; basically because he's epic and we're not. Only by experimentation can we work out away to duel him without being party-wiped. Let's take a look at how he opens proceedings, shall we?

First up, enraged at our presence, Lavok instantly fires an array of spell protections to simulate pre-buffing. This includes Spell ShieldSpell Trap and Chain ContingencyAbi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting Spell Immunity: Abjuration / Mordenkainen Sword Improved MantleSecond, he will fire off Time Stop and follow that up with Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting x2 and Spell TriggerChain Lightning x3/Flesh to Stone x3 and SequencerFlame Arrow x3/Skull Trap x3. Now, three of those sequenced spells scale to his epic level so they're enough to kill off a Mage party or at least put them on their last legs immediately. Ever get hit by a Lavok Flame Arrow? You will be surprised at just how quickly you die. If you try to flee from the Time Stop he will teleport into the midst of the party thanks to aTweaksPnP Dimension Door and drop necromantic nukes, too.

What took me an AGE to learn, will take a MOMENT to kill you.


Of course, this assumes the party does not have their own spell protections and illusions active. If they do, Lavok will likely focus on their systematic removal with True Sight, Khelben's Warding Whip, Spell Thrust, and an extremely high-level Remove Magic that will remind you of the innate super-dispel of the Inquisitor. At that point, a party that has not been able to remove his spell protections (in the intervals before and immediately after the Time Stop) is going to be in for a world of hurt because it lacks the depth of casting required to fully re-ward itself. 

Thus, in order to avoid merely outlasting Lavok's barrage (which is a bit lame but totally viable) and be able to actually take it to him, your pre-battle buffs should look something like this: Stoneskin and Mirror Image, Death Ward (ward: Finger of Death), Chaotic Commands (ward: Confusion and Chaos), Protection From Magical Energy (ward: ADHW), Improved Invisibility (to get up close to him before the dialogue triggers) [1], Spell Immunity x2: Abjuration/Divination and Minor Globe of Invulnerability (ward: Sequencer: Flame Arrow x3, Skull Trap x3).

◦ The above buffs and wards will allow you to avoid insta-death because Lavok will get busy dispelling them instead of unleashing ADHW and elemental Sequencers/Triggers (which are equally devastating). In turn, this buys you the time to dispel him with Secret Word (dispel Spell Shield), Ruby Ray of Reversal (dispel Spell Trap) and Breach (dispel PfMW). The first two are cast pre-Time Stop and the last one is cast post-Time Stop.

◦ The warded party member should go in alone to face Lavok, preferably flaunting the Robe of Vecna for its +casting speed and +MR. The other party members should hide in the doorway under something like Mass Invisibility (so as not to draw Lavok's summons towards them) and remain out of view of the staircase, at least until post-Time Stop, otherwise Lavok will turn his baleful gaze to them instead, which is very bad because they will be killed off (and we have neither Raise Dead/Resurrection nor access to a temple until we have satisfied the quest).

◦ Post-Time Stop, and assuming Lavok is now open to incurring damage, the rest of the party steps in to unleash SequencerSkull Trap x3 (x2) and whatever other direct damage spells they have available to them. Such a barrage is reliable in triggering Lavok's surrender dialogue, which is what you want.

◦ Cheese: Mass Invisibility → Improved Haste → Walk up to Lavok → MMM. You should get off enough meteors before the dialogue kicks in, and then also before the contingency kicks in, to trigger the surrender dialogue immediately.

[1] Why is getting up close to him important? I just like to keep him on the stairwell so that my other party members, who are huddled in the entrance to the chamber, don't get in his LoS.

Go to Hell. Exit the sphere to find yourself not in Athkatla but in the abyss. Resist Fear is mandatory in this demon-infested hell-hole. However, the only thing that absolutely needs to die is the custom Glabrezu that buffs itself with illusions, casts Power-Word-Stun, and then whales away on whoever its innate true-seeing reveals. At intervals (usually upon taking a hit) this elusive demon will shift to the ethereal plane in order to recast its illusions and refire Power-Word-Stun. It will do this until the end of time unless you slay it; so, employ Jan's Detect Illusions and the direct damage spells of your choice to do just that.

You now have the Demon Heart and may return to the sphere. However, there is more demonslaying to do down here...

Marilith Lea'liyl. To our dismay, Lea'lilyl is hanging out nearby along with a trio of elusive Maurezhi. You want to slay her immediately with MMM + IH (23k) or she will wreck the party with devastating melee attacks, pyrotechnics and a 35% chance of gating in 4 lesser, 2 greater or 1 true tanar'ri (1x/hour) courtesy of aTweaksFiendish Gating. Scary stuff!

• Nabassu. Remember Aec'Letec from Ulgoth's Beard? Well, that custom nabassu fired a nasty Death Gaze ability that chunked party members from the portrait bar and reanimated them as ghastly undead. The nabassu that teleports in shortly after vanquishing the Marilith does not have that ability, but does immediately gate in a trio of Cambions buffed with Mirror Image.  And, as per aTweaks: Fiendish Gating, Nabassu have a 3x/day 45% chance of gating in another of their kind, or three cambions. So again, killspeed is everything.

Below left: The initial triple-gating of cambions.
Below right: The nabassu gatings get out of control and Lea'liyl still stands. The party cannot hide and cannot run due to teleport-without-error; thus, the party is doomed.

En route to the Power Core. Only three encounters to go! Next, the Cowled Wizard Tolgerias is pretty much a carbon copy of Lavok except that he doesn't cast ADHW as much - and gates in a Cornugon instead. Refer to my Weidu log for links to its stats.

Fire & Ice. AoEs should make short work of the elemental chambers blocking the way to the engine room. Along with the annoying-as-fuck mephits there are some interesting and surprisingly powerful custom foes to take out such as the Ice Paraelemental (11k XP), Noble Salamander (10k) Greater Fire Elemental (10k) and Efreeti Noble (11k). By this stage the party should have access to an array of elemental protection spells and items, so USE THEM.

• Engine Room. At our party level, golems of Stone x6, Juggernaut x3 and Clay are guarding the power core into which you need to feed the Demon Heart. You should be an expert at taking out these guys by now.

• Return to Lavok in the navigator's room to cap off the quest and receive the Ring of Acuity from him as a reward.

Mage Strongold bugYou will now want to go through the Stronghold quest in order to get the ADHW scroll and second Ring of Wizardry. Unfortunately, the age-old bug of Ribald not having a dialogue option to help the Solamnic Knights is still a problem in the latest Fixpack version.  Luckily, the quest has two solutions: you can also enlist the help of the Order of the Most Radiant Heart.

The Planar Prison

This area is pretty damn annoying and I hate it. First up, because there are several yuant-i mages that converge on the party as they navigate through it (in vanilla, they just wait for you to reach them). Second, navigation itself is annoying because the party often gets sucked down into valves where they have to fight off minor mobs.

• The Master of Thralls is another nabussu but you should be used to getting the quick kill on them to avoid the chaos that ensues as a result of gating. Of course, destroy the mastery orb looted from its corpse so that the thralls can turn on the Warden.

• The Warden. A major A-HOLE, the warden is a super-cambion and a melee monster. It will make short work of the pathetic uprising, just nuking the thralls with ADHW and poking them with Black Blade of Disaster before you even arrive on the scene. So yeah, freeing the slaves doesn't even put a dent in him but it's certainly preferable to having to face off against a pack of thralls, including two mages, in addition to the duo of arcane-capable yuan-ti, isn't it?

The Warden's movement speed is greatly increased, too; he makes Monkspeed look like a stroll in the park and will likely zero-in on the party no matter where they are trying to hide on the map.

Worst of all, its vampiric great sword inflicts four-point level drain per hit - similar to the Shadow Dragon. Thus, PfMW is absolutely vital to tanking it while the other Mages pick apart its combat and spell protections. Of course, that's easier said than done because the Warden's pre-buff contingency consists of Spell Turning and Spell Shield and then he fires Chain Contingency the effects of which are semi-random but generally include powerful wards, summons and illusions such as Simulacrum. Again, Jan's detect illusions and Aerie's tanking ability are indispensable.

Cheese: Post-revolt, summon a Mordenkainen's Sword and send it off to beat up on the Warden, who won't fire his contingency because summons don't trigger his dialogue. Dead.
Oversight: The Warden foolishly gated in a glabrezu while not protected from evil. The party removed his combat protections and watched as the demon tore the warden to pieces.

Above: So much for the uprising...
Below: You really don't want to face off against five spellcasters at the same time.

Ok, so I finally decided not to recruit Haer'Dalis for the reasons given in my party composition post. It would be nice to have another UAI-capable party member and I may enlist his services post-Spellhold or in Throne of Bhaal if I feel like the party could make use of him, but for now he can chill in the Copper Coronet.

• Your party should look something like this now:

Most importantly, Charname, Nalia and Edwin have broken into the seventh circle to open up key spells such as Ruby Ray of Reversal, Sequencer, Mordenkainen's Sword, Spell Turning and Project Image. In addition, Aerie and Jan have broken into arcane six for PfMW, PfME and Mislead, with Aerie also breaking into divine six for Aerial Servant and Blade Barrier.

◦ Charname ◦ Wild Mage 14 ◦ Spell Slots Arcane6-6-6-5-6-4-3 → Improved Chaos Shield. Wears "Jaheira's" RoW.

◦ Aerie ◦ Cleric 11/Mage 12 ◦ Spell Slots Arcane4-4-4-4-4-1 ◦ Spell Slots Divine7-6-4-3-2-1 → Aerie now wears the Robe of Vecna.

◦ NaliaThief 4/Mage 14 ◦ Spell Slots Arcane5-5-5-4-5-3-2 → Nalia gets the RoW from the stronghold. It's a pity her signet ring can't be removed or she would get the Ring of Acuity, too.

◦ JanIllusionist 12/Thief 13 ◦ Spell Slots Arcane5-5-5-5-5-2

◦ EdwinConjurer 14 ◦ Spell Slots Arcane8-8-8-7-7-5-4

Thus, we are looking good and are now more than ready to take on Brynnlaw and Spellhold! At this point in the proceedings I don't foresee many roadblocks from Brynnlaw to Suldanessellar. I see only the Twisted Rune, Kangaxx and Tree/Hell Irenicus causing us problems. Of course, Ascension: Throne of Bhaal and Watcher's Keep are another thing altogether...

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