Sunday, 22 April 2018

Infinity Engine: Spotlight on Spells — Magic Missile (+ Missile of Patience and Enoll Eva's Duplication)

The following write-up for Magic Missile is based on the original versions of Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate 2Icewind Dale, Icewind Dale 2 and Planescape: Torment.

Above: Edwin gets upset and casts Magic Missile at Charname, whose Mirror Images absorb the five missiles.

Magic Missile is a first circle arcane evocation that inflicts no-save 1d4+1 magic damage (in BG, it's 2d3) on a single target unless the target's illusions, wards or MR blocks it.

The number of missiles fired per casting scales for every two caster levels and caps out at five missiles for a ninth level caster.

Magic Missile is also useful for dispersing enemy Mirror Images and disrupting enemy spellcasting. In BG2, it can be used to vanquish Mordenkainen's Swords in BG2. Also in BG2, a double dose of Magic Missile may be loaded into a Minor Sequencer for extra punch (pic of "extra punch").

On the defensive end, Magic Resistance (MR) may and Shield will absorb the missiles, and five points of Magic Damage Resistance (MDR) will reliably block the damage but not the on-hit sprite anim "hit recovery" delay inflicted by the missiles. Protection against MM is especially important in IWD2 and SCS BG2.

MM's utility has been somewhat underrated by veterans over the years due to Sleep being much more useful in the early going of Baldur's Gate, but, while Sleep becomes all but useless by the midway point of IE campaigns, Magic Missile remains potentially useful in all IE campaigns, even towards the end. 

Magic Missile in action. Charname, Imoen, Garrick, Edwin and Dynaheir unleash MM simultaneously at their target, Tazok. (Xan prefers instead to wave his Moon Blade under Tazok's nose since his opposition school is Evocation.)

Screencap of MMs fired at Shandalar (35 x 2d3)  (= dead archmage).

On the other hand, Planescape: Torment does not allow for arcane parties to be composed. Dak'kon, Ignus and Mage TNO are the only arcane-capable characters who can scribe and cast Magic Missile, the scrolls for which are itemized early (TNO gets his scroll from Mebbeth, Dak'kon gets his from Pharod's lair and Ignus gets his from Cinder in the Lower Ward marketplace).

You can see here that Morte is about to get hit by 15 magic missiles. Nasty.

But here, Morte has already been hit by several missiles and yet the screencap shows another 20 on the way. You can't see them all at once in this screencap but there are actually 30 missiles fired here, almost instantaneously. 

How is this possible?

Answer: By virtue of buffing beforehand with Enoll Eva's Duplication, a fifth circle spell that duplicates castings and conventional attacks for 2 whole minutes of game-time. To spell it out, that means every time you cast spell/attack you follow up with another in quick succession (thus, it is sort of like Haste/3.x Quicken). There is only one Twisted Gear of Enoll Eva "scroll" itemized in PS:T (it's a twisted gear using the generic "junk" icon), and you will have to jump through some serious hoops in order to acquire it (though it can be acquired before heading into Ravel's black-barbed maze; thus, it gets a lot of use). And yes, as the pic shows, the spell can be cast not just on TNO but on companions, too. Nice. Update 23-Apr-18. Here is a vid I threw up on YouTube:

While the above bombardment wins on coolpoints, it is of course BG2 that wins on sheer collective damage thanks to Minor Sequencers and the ability to have six arcane casters in the party. IOW, a max of 60 missiles unleashed simultaneously.

Icewind Dale spell scroll itemization (detailed here) does not support multiple arcane casters, and its horde-based encounter design means MM cannot impact encounter outcomes let alone determine them. OTOH, one can dodge IWD2's similarly stingy SS itemization by rolling with Sorcerers and Bards (who are not subject to SS itemization).

Pros & Cons:

[+] Readily itemized/choosable. Multiple spell scrolls can be found easily and early on.
[+] Cheap to cast. Arcane casters have many first circle spell slots to load it with (not to mention Ring of Wizardry, tattoos, and other slot-buffing items).
[+] Decent damage due to caster level scaling (max 5 x 1d4+1 [*]). Also, not much is immune and whatever isn't immune can't save.
[*] In BG, it's 2d3.
[+] Effective Mirror Image dispersal and spellcaster disruption. Also good for finishing off the annoying morale-failed who you can't be assed chasing down.
[+] Can be loaded into Minor Sequencers, the spell scrolls for which are also readily itemized (BG2 only).
[+] It's fun to cast and visually pleasing with satisfying launch and impact sounds.
[+] Can remain useful even in the late-game.
[-] Single target only. (ToEE allowed you to assign each missile to a separate target.)
[-] Competes for first circle spell slots with other useful spells such as Identify, Friends, Chromatic Orb, Sleep and Blindness (among others such as Armor and Shield).
[-] Isn't as encounter outcome-dictating as Chromatic Orb, Sleep or Blindness (CO and B are godly).
[-] In PS:T (and this is for TNO/Dak'kon only), MM is almost wholly superseded by the first circle Missile of Patience at caster level 11th. MoP's arbalest can be fired over twenty times per casting and inflicts 1-15 dmg per firing.

I would rank Magic Missile as one of the most useful first circle arcane spells on the Infinity Engine. Campaign-wise, I rank its usefulness as follows: BG > BG2/PS:T > IWD2 > IWD. See also: Best Arcane Spells (BG & BG2).

Official descriptions for reference purposes:

Use of the magic missile spell, one of the most popular first level spells, creates up to five missiles of magical energy that dart forth from the wizard's fingertip and unerringly strike their target, which must be a creature of some sort. Each missile inflicts 1d4+1 points of damage. For every two extra levels of experience, the wizard gains an additional missile - he has two at 3rd level, three at 5th level, four at 7th level, etc., up to a total of five missiles at 9th level. — BG, BG2, IWD, IWD2.

This spell shapes arcane energies into unerring missiles. The greater your skill, the more missiles you can hurl from your body. The spell summons a magical missile that strikes its target unerringly for 2-5 pts. of damage with no saving throw possible. In addition, the caster gains 1 extra missile every 2 levels, for a total of 5 missiles at level 9. — PS:T.



  1. Magic Missile is the most useful spell in the BG series. In mage duels, the one who hits with MM 1st wins. Once you've interrupted the opposing mage, it's as simple as staying on top of your victim.

    1. Mmm... Web, Blindness, Chromatic Orb, Skull Trap and Mirror Image are godly. MM is not godly. Over the course of BG/BG2, Web, Blindness and Chromatic Orb are more encounter outcome-dictating than MM, and Mirror Image is pretty hard to overrate in usefulness.

      In regard to spell disruption, scaled MM is probably the best spell choice if the enemy Mage is under the effect of Mirror Image, but projectiles are otherwise superior since they have a faster launch speed/flight speed. And six party members firing at a Mirror Image (bullets, darts, bolts, arrows) will bring down the illusion, disrupt the enemy Mage and then kill them outright within a couple of rounds.

      But yeah, that assumes a fairly balanced party and also assumes the Mage is not hiding behind MGoI/Protection From Missiles.

      If it's just Charname Mage vs. Mirror Imaged enemy mage in a low level duel, then Magic Missile should be the opener followed up by 3 ApR darts for disruption/possible kill (while waiting out one round cooldown). If Mage is still standing then follow up with another MM to finish them off.

    2. Web, the orb, and Skull Trap are also great offensive spells. But I never get them to come off as neatly as MM. Mirror Image is grand for defense. And I always contingency it, "On enemy sighted."


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