Introduction To light a candle is to cast a shadow. - Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
There are multiple ways to approach building an arcane-inclined character. A straight-class character has two real options at present, and multi-classing introduces additional possibilities.
Pure wizard characters will tend towards either blasting or control. In fact, there are fairly important differences between the two options that makes focusing on both almost impossible. But unlike in former editions, control mages will also deal damage simultaneously, while blast mages will also end up having some control. But their goals differ markedly, and thus they will make different choices in powers known, prepared, and options chosen.
Wizards can also multiclass into other classes and other classes can multi-class into arcane power. This creates a dizzying array of possibilities to be explored.
A note about organization: mage types are categorized by build goals rather than similarities of attribute demands or similar concerns, in part because most people are going to start off by saying "i want to blow stuff up with my mind" or "i want to keep the enemy from doing stuff", not "I want an int/wis build wizard, what are my options?". In general, most blast wizards will have similar builds, and most control wizards will have similar builds, and when a particular style wants to build like the other concept type it will direct you there for the relevant pieces of advice. This should make it easier to quickly find the information you are looking for.
Definitions A Blast Mage focuses on dealing damage. While a wizard is generally outclassed by striker role classes at single-target damage, no one surpasses the wizard at room-clearing capability, and so a wizard who wants to lay down the hurt is concerned about dealing as much damage as possible per attack and hitting as many targets as possible. The ultimate goal of a Blast Mage is to maximize their DPS (damage per "second"), which means not only choosing high damage spells but also taking options and building their character to maximize their to-hit chances.
A Bleed Mage will try to maximize their DPS to a single target by applying spells which produce ongoing damage and layering these on a single target. These wizards will still want some good AoE damage spells, and still care about total damage output, but have focused more effort into dealing to one target and AoE spells are a secondary concern. They may alternately splash a control focus. They tend to build more like control mages than typical blast mages, but are more interested in DPS optimization than control mages. (Meme name subject to change. Referred to as (hybrid) throughout the document until a permanent name is arrived at.)
A Control Mage focuses on disabling or otherwise disadvantaging their opponents to make it easier for team hero to beat team monster. While area damage is of some importance (as clearing out minion monsters does exert control), they are generally far more interested in spells which produce status effects, and maintaining those status effects for as long as possible.
A Hard Control approach focuses on status conditions tied to monsters which give the monster no choice about how much it effects them. Any spell which produces an effect tied to a monster is a hard control spell. Additionally, barriers which cannot be crossed are hard control - the monster can't opt to go through it. (A barrier like Wall of Ice also arguably qualifies because it takes enough effort to breach to make it effectively impassable for a short time).
A Soft Control approach focuses on discouraging monsters from taking certain actions by making it painful or difficult to do so. Area of effect spells which produce ongoing damage fields or create difficult terrain fall into this category, including spells like Icy Terrain and Wall of Fire.
Spells which move an enemy are somewhere in the boundary between hard and soft control, depending on how easy it is to undo the effect. So thunderwave is more Soft Control because the monster can just move back to undo it pretty trivially most of the time. Something which knocks the monster prone is harder to undo and is more in the middle because standing up takes an action.
A control mage will typically use some spells of both types, although specialization in one or the other is possible.
Priorities The first goal in building any wizard is to optimize its abilities for the offensive role chosen. This starts with attributes, and proceeds through class options, power selection, and feat selection. Even skills are important here.
The second goal is in enhancing your wizard's defensive capabilities. 4E by its very nature is structured to keep everyone on the RNG, which means your defenses are both important and definitely matter against level appropriate monsters. As most feats will not help you with role fulfillment, a lot of feats can and should be spent on defensive abilities. Utility powers can also come in handy here.
Finally, general utility is important to a wizard. Some feats can be spared here, but also utility powers and rituals contribute to your suite of options. Skills can be useful, but as most of your in-class options are knowledges, skills only contribute to utility insofar as knowledges do most of the time.
General Character Building Guidelines Attributes One of the major changes in 4E is that your attributes are the most important determiner of how well you accomplish various tasks. Due to the rate at which monster defenses scale, this means that an attack attribute modifier less than +3 is basically worthless, and you better keep investing in improving it or you will quickly fall behind. This also means that generally you'll have one good attack attribute. Fortunately, wizards only have one such attribute - intelligence - unless you want to use a melee or ranged weapon (not recommended for pure wizards).
The other major change is the division of attributes into three groups: the fortitude group (str and con), the reflex group (int and dex), and the will group (wis and cha). Generally you'll want to have one good number in each of those groups and can sack the other one, barring specific other needs (feat prereqs, important attributes, etc...).
All wizards want a good intelligence, as that is the primary stat for many wizard skills and their attack attribute. It should be at least 16 to start, and all attribute pumps you gain should pump intelligence as one of your choices.
Wizards will also want to ensure they have a good secondary attribute, generally either dexterity or wisdom. In general, blast mages are interested in dexterity because of wand focus, while control mages are interested in wisdom because of orb focus. This means most control mages have a better attribute build in general because wisdom and intelligence contribute differently to defense (whereas most of dexterity's possible contributions are duplicated by intelligence). The bleed mage will also want orb focus, and thus a high wisdom. This secondary attribute should also be pumped at every opportunity. It is possible this 'secondary' attribute will actually be more important than intelligence, and this will be discussed under the builds themselves.
The last facet to look at is feats. Most control and all bleed mages will want Spell Focus in the paragon tier, and will thus need cha 13 to qualify. As you'll get +1 to all attributes before choosing the feat, this means a 12 Cha - an attribute which is otherwise wasted. Barring a critical feat like that, because of the sparsity of points to spend on attributes it is strongly recommended to not go out of the way investing in useless attributes. Thus Arcane Reach, while potentially useful for control mages, is also prohibitively inaccessible with a 15 dex requirement (and as its not critical, should be avoided), whereas a blast mage could easily snag this feat.
After you've made sure you qualify for any and all feats you'll need, constitution makes the best investment for fortitude defense as strength is not especially useful to you. Similarly, if you don't have will defense covered yet, wisdom is generally the better investment because it applies to a number of important skills (such as Nature and Insight). However, wizards looking to multiclass could choose the other attribute within pairs at this point to facilitate their desired multiclass.
It is also possible to build a wizard with no real secondary attribute, generally by staff focus. However, as wand and orb are far better foci for your offensive capabilities (blast and control respectively), focusing on staff to avoid those particular secondary attributes is only likely if you need a good attribute elsewhere for multiclassing.
Powers In addition to the more specific advice given later on for power selection relative to your offensive specialty, a general aspect to keep in mind is that one of the strengths of the wizard class is its ability to target any of reflex, fortitude, or will. As such, making sure you have a spell capable of hitting any of those is generally to your advantage, because you can choose the power your adversary is most vulnerable to (ie, has the weakest defense against).
Class Features Cantrips All wizards receive the four cantrips at 1st level. These are remarkably useful and useable at-will.
Mage Hand is a conjuration effect, and can exert ~20lbs of force. Potentially quite useful (Pull levers, carry treasure, etc...).
Prestidigitation has a number of useful facets for minor things.
Light means you don't have to hold a torch in your hands.
Ghost Sound could be quite good for distraction in pre-combat settings, although a wizard's general lack of stealth doesn't facilitate this well.
As usual, cantrips utility is based on your creativity and your groups willingness to ad hoc occasionally.
Implements At first level you get to focus your practice on the use of a particular implement.
Orb is by far the best if you intend to create ongoing conditions which your opponent will need to save against, and demands a high wisdom modifier to be effective. This means most control wizards and (hybrid) wizards will want to focus on orbs. It also means that wisdom is actually more important to them than intelligence, and thus will tend to spend points equally (in a PB setting) between the two of them, and choose a race with a wisdom pump. This is discussed in more detail under Control Mages.
Wand is the best for Blast Mages because it gives them a useful bonus to hit 1/encounter, letting the ramp up their DPS briefly.
Staves have a defensive power, and will likely see more use for wizards heading towards multi-classing, or as a second implement with the appropriate paragon tier feat.
Double-Barrelled Wizards Most wizards, with or without Second Implement, will likely consider holding an implement in each hand. Only those who choose Wand of Accuracy are likely to balk at this, because upkeeping two implements in magical power is painful. Neither the staff nor the orb requires it be the implement you use to make the attack to use its 1/encounter power. Thus, orb or staff wizards may decide to carry a different implement with a high enhancement bonus and spiffy powers to activate in order to take advantage of a different implement type's powers.
Spellbook Wizards get an amazing advantage in that every time they learn a utility or daily spell they actually learn two (and can prepare one). This means they have access to a good variety of powers for their more infrequent abilities.
It isn't completely clear that when a character gets to swap out a daily power that the wizard gets to swap two - but as swapping does involve selecting a spell that would appear to meet the requirement for being able to do so twice. Presumably you make two swaps in that instance. Some clarification here from the designers would be appreciated.
Rituals also go in a spellbook, and a wizard gains more free than anyone else. These are discussed in detail under rituals below. Control wizards are better at using rituals that require Wis skills. You also get the ritual casting feat for free.
Memes The listed memes (battle and control) have no mechanical effect - we'll consider what's actually good choices for various mage builds. As character creation advice has a history of being suspect in previous editions, I'm going to ignore their recommendations entirely and come to my own conclusions - they may agree sometimes and disagree other times. As it stands, their listed memes correspond well to the two end-member archetypes we'll consider.
Credits and Thanks For quotes or concept names: Nelyo, Timlagor And to everyone who's contributed to the discussion - sometimes i've incorporated ideas from it and other times i've disagreed, but its still been interesting.
There is a certain satisfaction in making things explode with your mind. That's what a blast mage does. He controls the cosmic power of the universe, and he uses it to make popcorn, light the campfire, and turn his enemies into cinders all at the same time. Seriously, that's pretty hardcore.
Fortunately for the blast mage, he no longer has to dig around in a little bag for spell components that are supposed to be funny because they are in-jokes. Fireball isn't a MacGyver trick anymore. You don't make a lightning bolt by rubbing cat fur on a glass rod, and this means you can actually act cool while making stuff explode. And we're mostly interested in the stuff exploding part, so we're good with that.
Most people who want to play a blast mage don't actually want to think about it too much. They want to sit down and throw hollywood special effects around and enjoy being awesome. This guide will help you get to that point without too much hassle and be effective at what you do. Your character might have an intelligence of 26 - heck, you might have an intelligence of 26 - but what you really want is to blow stuff up and afterwards be able to declare "I sunk the George Washington Bridge."
Theory and Optimization Goals Blast Mages want to maximize total damage output, and they want to do this by making things explode. This is not single-target dominance, this is Area of Effect dominance. A striker will outperform them at killing one foe, but they'll clear rooms faster than anyone else.
When maximizing damage, it is not sufficient to just deal a lot of damage when you hit. Because if you miss a lot your average damage output, and therefore impact of your damage on combat, is going to be low. The proper variable to maximize is average damage.
Average damage for any given attack is equal to the product of expected damage per hit multiplied by the probability of hitting. For the mage, then, where damage per hit is going to vary by spell, and probability of hitting is going to vary by opponent's defenses, he needs to worry about the average of damage across all his spells and his ability to attack as many different defenses as possible. Thus, the major areas of focus are going to be on power selection, attribute arrangement, and bonuses to attack rolls and damage rolls.
One thing that will quickly become clear is that just going through the power list and choosing high damage spells is not always the best approach. Most good blast powers target reflex. As being able to choose which of reflex, fortitude, or will you're targetting is worth approximately a +3 to hit modifier, some variation is going to be essential. Will is on average the weakest defense, and also the one with the fewest blasting powers, so we're going to have to occasionally compromise our pure blast ideals for variety.
Attributes Intelligence is by far a blast mage's most important attribute. It adds to both attack and damage rolls, making it the workhorse attribute for everything the blast mage is doing. As such, you want to maximize intelligence as much as possible. Grabbing an 18 with point buy can be considered, although many will likely settle for a 16.
After intelligence the attributes you care about are Dexterity, Constitution, and one of Wisdom or Charisma. Barring a specific reason to choose charisma, wisdom is probably the better attribute.
Dexterity is important because of wand focus, which will give you a to-hit bonus 1/encounter equal to your dexterity modifier, and thus ramping up your average damage, especially if used on a high damage spell. Wand focus is probably the best choice for a blast mage because of this. Dexterity also helps you qualify for a number of useful feats, such as Arcane Reach.
Constitution and (Wis/Cha) are of near equal importance to each other, although Constitution is slightly more valuable as your Fortitude defense will tend to be lower. Their value relative to dexterity depends on your preference as a player and how hard the DM works to neutralize the party's backfield. Dexterity from a numbers standpoint is ultimately a low value attribute to a wizard outside of the wand implement as it only contributes to initiative beyond that, so the optimal level of dexterity may be set by desired feats or how valuable you feel the bonus from wand use is.
When advancing attributes, every opportunity should be taken to advance intelligence. The second attribute pump can be split between the three other important attributes or dumped into the one of your choice (or choose two and ignore the third). Blast mages have some flexibility here because they aren't as dependent on two stats as control mages are - their intelligence mostly defines their combat effectiveness on its own.
The first stat is intelligence and the next three are your other important attributes in the order you choose. You'll generally want to sack strength, although an argument can be made for the one of wisdom/charisma you didn't choose.
The mid one is probably the best overall, with the top one rating after it. The lack of a second truly critical attribute makes the last spread less effective than it is for a control mage.
Note that this lack of a second dominant attribute makes blast mages the easiest to multiclass with, because you can choose a viable attribute to make into a secondary with the 16 16 12 12 10 8 array based on your desired multiclass.
Races Of primary importance is getting an intelligence pump - not getting one is a deal breaker, and we will ignore every race which doesn't have one. The secondary pump should be one of the three other attributes we care about, and as long as it is we'll be far more interested in racial abilities than which attribute it happens to be most of the time. We'll consider races both from the PHB and the MM.
PHB Races: Eladrin (Int, Dex) With a dex pump in addition to the int pump, Eladrin strongly favor wand-focused mages, and thus the blast mage is right up their alley. Their Fey Step power is useful for maneuvering around the battlefield, but mostly for keeping out of the reach of nasty creatures. They also get a great defensive bonus in the paragon tier from the Feywild Protection feat. Finally, they get +2 Arcana for help with rituals, and a free skill from outside their class list. Unfortunately, none of these abilities help with their offense, so while they have better than average defense, they aren't the optimal choice. However, if you wanted to play an Eladrin Wizard, blast mage is the only meme they really fit into.
Human (Any) Humans have some of the best racial feats and benefit from an extra at-will power and extra feat, skill, and defense bonuses across the board. Humans make great mages of all types, and although they're not the absolute best blast mages right now, they'll continue to get better as feat options increase with splats.
Tiefling (Int, Cha) The Cha bonus means you'll go Charisma instead of Wisdom, but that's ok because it makes qualifying for Astral Fire easy, except you'll probably grab Hellfire Blood first because its even better (+1 attack and damage, they'll want Astral Fire sometime in paragon or epic because its damage boost keeps going up). Tieflings also net a +1 attack against bloodied foes, which is a great to-hit boost, and their Infernal Wrath power grants them another +1 to hit and a damage boost - it just requires the enemy has already hit you. Tieflings make perhaps the best blast mages because of this variety of +attack roll modifiers.
MM Races: Doppelganger (Int, Cha) With the same stat pumps as Tieflings, it has none of the synergies a tiefling provides. Still, being a doppelganger is pretty cool, and you do get a disguise power useable at-will. But nothing to help out your blasting.
Githyanki (Int, Con) The Con pump is useful, as is their +2 racial bonus to initiative. And their telekinetic leap power isn't without uses. But the rest of their abilities are nothing to write home about. Not notably good for blast mages, but certainly playable.
Gnome (Int, Cha) Gnomes make an interesting blast mage, because they're highly likely to acquire combat advantage. They may just avoid being noticed - letting them attack their enemies unawares when they first act. Then they can fade out to invisibility to set up another advantaged attack. Gnome blast mages will probably want to train Stealth somehow. Probably tied with or slightly worse than humans as a blast mage race.
Shadar-Kai (Int, Dex) Very much like the Eladrin, their teleport racial power is slightly better for defense (but less useful for offensive positioning because it has less range). They also have worse features otherwise. Not a great choice.
Rankings from best to worst: 1. Tiefling 2. Human, Gnome 3. Eladrin, Githyanki 4. Shadar-Kai 5. Doppelganger
Powers A few general rules on choosing powers: (1) Make sure you have a way to target every defense (except AC). Most blast powers target reflex, so you'll need to leave this comfortable bubble occasionally. (2) A generally unified set of elements is easier to enhance with feats than a grab bag. Choose one or two elements to specialize in. (Fire and lightning are the best blast elements).
Unfortunately, 1 and 2 work at cross purposes, because most powers of a given element target the same defense. Blast mages suffer here the most because they care about the element damage pumping feats the most, and being thrifty with those feat choices means a narrower range of saves targetted.
Elements and Typical Defense (Approximate order most-least useful for blast mages) Fire : Reflex Lightning : Reflex Thunder : Fortitude Cold : Fortitude Force : Reflex Necrotic : Fortitude Acid : Fortitude Poison : Fortitude Psychic : Will Radiant : Will
At-Will Powers Scorching Burst will be most blast mages first choice. Thunderwave will probably be the second, but magic missile is certainly a possibility. A human likely grabs MM as their third. Cloud of Daggers and Ray of Frost are single-target and low damage (relative to MM, at least early on), making them easy passes for a blast mage.
Encounter Powers At level 1 burning hands makes the most sense because its a fire power, but Icy Terrain and Force Orb are both plausible choices.
At level 3 Shocksphere is the stylistic fit, but its another reflex targetter. This is a good place to pick up a Will targetter (Colorspray) or a fire fortitude targeter (Fire Shroud). Both of them work with Astral Fire, and as Will is harder to find useful powers that synergize with blasting, its a shoe-in. That it also happens to be a good control power is a plus.
At level 7 Fire Burst and Lightning Bolt are both traditional blast powers, but Fire Burst is much better, even ignoring that its a fire power. The other choices aren't especially tempting.
At level 13 the control blasting choices are not exciting. Prismatic Burst is radiant damage against a will save, which probably edges it out over Thunderlance. You could swap color spray for prismatic burst, but you're probably better off swapping your level 1 power since having 2 1/encounter will targetters is nice.
At level 17 Combust is a pure upgrade for a power like fireburst.
At level 23 you might consider Chain Lightning, but it would be better if you'd focused on lightning powers up till that point. Thunderclap has similar appeal with a different build.
At level 27 you swap something for Black Fire.
Your encounter powers at level 27 probably look like: Colorspray, Prismatic Burst, Combust, Black Fire if you're optimizing for damage and defense diversity (you have thunderlance as an at-will fort targeter), unless you really liked your paragon encounter power (at which point you probably dropped Colorspray because its pretty low damage).
Alternately, you focused on lightning and thunder powers, and have Chain Lightning, Thunderclap (one taken at 27th), Thunderlance, and Prismatic Burst (one taken at 17th), barring a paragon path encounter power you like. This is worse for overall damage but has more hard control. Its not quite as good because Raging Storm won't benefit Prismatic Burst, and your level distribution of spells is skewed downwards because of a lack of a good element spell at each level.
The fire mage option is much better laid out for encounter powers.
Daily You do get to choose 2 per level, but the discussion will be assuming you'll choose one as a primary that you'll prepare most days, and thus will assume you're mostly choosing one power.
At 1st level you aren't picking up a will targetter without Sleep, and blast mages won't be interested. Flaming Sphere keeps with a fire theme and is a reasonably good power, but Freezing Cloud is also a decent choice.
At 5th level fireball is the obvious if you're going pure blaster, and nothing else comes close. However, fireball isn't essential (you have plenty of fire spells), and many blast mages will choose to splash for a little something else about here - web is probably the best choice despite not dealing damage.
At 9th level Lightning Serpent is the lightning power, but its not really a blasting power. Any of the level 9 powers are plausible picks, none of them are great blasting powers, so choose for diversity and random utility.
Swapping dailies is easy at this point, because blast mages aren't really excited about any of the low level daily spells.
At 15th level Prismatic Beams is a shoe-in and possibly the first daily you really care about. Blast of Cold also makes a decent choice (but doesn't combo well with your encounter powers).
At 19th level Disintegrate is likely your best choice, and Acid Wave makes a good backup. Of course, Evard's is sufficiently good that even a blaster might grab it.
At 25th level Elemental Maw is the obvious choice, but Necrotic Web and Prismatic Spray are arguably better choices, even for a blaster.
29th level features Meteor Swarm, but this power is made of fail. It isn't much better than Black Fire, which you get 1/encounter. You're better off grabbing Legion's Hold - it'll give you another will targetter, and its truly awesome control for when you're in a pinch. Of course, if you really just want to blow stuff up, Meteor Swarm isn't useless, it just doesn't feel very exciting for your daily to be a mere +7 average damage over your best encounter power. If you make it an encounter power with archmage you won't feel too bad about it, especially if you're playing a blaster for the sole purpose of setting things on fire with your mind.
You'll notice daily power elements for good choices vary a lot more. An element that did get chosen with some frequency was Necrotic, which suggests Dark Fury might not be a terrible investment.
Utility Your primary concern with utility is being able to put spells where you need them. This means spells like Expeditious Retreat, Dimension Door, Arcane Gate, and Fly are all useful. Additionally, some defensive spells will serve you well, and spells like Invisibility can do double duty by letting you move unhindered to where you want to drop your attack from while protecting you at the same time.
Feats You're going to want a unifying theme for a large number of spells so you can choose a fitting damage feat for them: Typically Astral Fire or Raging Storm. Generally limiting yourself to one such feat is for the best, although picking up Dark Fury later for some builds may be a good choice.
At the paragon tier you'll generally want Arcane Reach. Depending on your elemental focus you may also want Lightning Arc. As a blast mage, your likely high dex makes Sieze the Moment a great feat, although 17 dex may be beyond what you cared to invest. Solid Sound may also be worth the investment, especially if you're getting a lot of use out of Thunderwave.
In epic tier, an astral fire mage may find Font of Radiance useful, although your focus on damage over control may limit its effectiveness. Irresistible Flame is a necessity for fire-focused mages.
Otherwise, the general advice in the feats section applies (and much of the above is highlights from comments on specific feats).
Paragon Paths Some blast mages may head for Blood Mage, but its not really a blasting paragon path. Fire mages will prefer Battle Mage, as it provides some awe-inspiring damage dealing spells and nice to-hit bonuses. Lightning-focused mages could either go Battle Mage (recommended if you took Cha over Wis), or Spellstorm Mage (high wisdom a definite plus).
See Paragon Paths for more details.
Epic Destinies Nothing really compares to the archmage abilities. Demigod is of little interest to a blast mage.
See Epic Destinies for more details.
Sample Character Xendao, Tiefling Blast Mage Racial: Fire Res 5, +1 attack v. bloodied opponents, +2 bluff/stealth Skills: Arcana, Diplomacy, Religion, (Insight or Nature) Class: Cantrips, Spellbook, Wand Focus At-Will: Scorching Burst, Thunderwave
Level 1 Str 8 Con 13 Dex 14 Int 18 Wis 10 Cha 16 Encounter: Burning Hands, Infernal Wrath, Wand of Accuracy Daily: Flaming Sphere*, Freezing Cloud Feats: Ritual Casting (b), Hellfire Blood
Level 6 Str 8 Con 13 Dex 14 Int 19 Wis 10 Cha 17 Encounter: Burning Hands, Colorspray, Infernal Wrath, Wand of Accuracy Daily: Flaming Sphere*, Freezing Mist, Fireball*, Web Utility:Expeditious Retreat, Shield, Invisibility*, Dimension Door* Feats: Ritual Casting (b), Hellfire Blood, Armor Proficiency (Leather), Improved Initiative, Skill Training (Bluff or Stealth)
Level 16 Str 9 Con 14 Dex 17 Int 22 Wis 11 Cha 18 Encounter: Forceful Retort, Colorspray, Fire Burst, Prismatic Burst, Infernal Wrath, Wand of Accuracy Daily: Flaming Sphere, Fireball*, Web, Wall of Fire, Prismatic Beams*, Blast of Cold* Utility: Expeditious Retreat, Shield, Invisibility*, Dimension Door, Blur, Arcane Gate*, Arcane Rejuvenation*, Greater Invisibility*, Fly* Feats: Ritual Casting (b), Hellfire Blood, Armor Prof (Leather), Imp Init, Skill Train (Bluff or Stealth), Astral Fire, Danger Sense, Arcane Reach, Sieze the Moment, Lightning Reflexes, Fiery Rebuke (1 retrained) Paragon: Arcane Riposte, Battle Mage Action, Battle Edge
Level 21 - Archmage Epic Destiny Str 10 Con 16 Dex 18 Int 24 Wis 12 Cha 19 Encounter: Colorspray, Forceful Retort, Prismatic Burst, Combust, Infernal Wrath, Wand of Accuracy Daily: Fireball*, Wall of Fire, Prismatic Beams*, Blast of Cold, Closing Spell*, Evard's Black Tentacles, Disintegrate* Utility: Expeditious Retreat, Shield, Invisibility*, Dimension Door, Blur, Arcane Gate*, Arcane Rejuvenation*, Greater Invisibility*, Stoneskin, Mass Fly*, Displacement* Feats: Ritual Casting (b), Hellfire Blood, Armor Prof (Leather), Imp Init, Skill Train (Bluff or Stealth), Astral Fire, Danger Sense, Arcane Reach, Sieze the Moment, Lightning Reflexes, Fiery Rebuke, Evasion, Irresistible Flame, Spell Accuracy (2 retrained) Paragon: Arcane Riposte, Battle Mage Action, Battle Edge Epic:Spell Recall
Level 26 Str 10 Con 16 Dex 19 Int 25 Wis 12 Cha 19 Encounter: Colorspray, Forceful Retort, Prismatic Burst, Combust, Infernal Wrath, Wand of Accuracy Daily: , Wall of Fire*, Prismatic Beams, Closing Spell*, Evard's Black Tentacles, Disintegrate*, Prismatic Spray, Necrotic Web* Utility: Expeditious Retreat, Shield, Invisibility*, Dimension Door, Blur, Arcane Gate*, Arcane Rejuvenation*, Greater Invisibility*, Stoneskin, Mass Fly*, Displacement*, Shape Magic* Feats: Ritual Casting (b), Hellfire Blood, Armor Prof (Leather), Imp Init, Skill Train (Bluff or Stealth), Astral Fire, Danger Sense, Arcane Reach, Sieze the Moment, Great Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes, Fiery Rebuke, Evasion, Irresistible Flame, Spell Accuracy, Font of Radiance, +1** (2 retrained) Paragon: Arcane Riposte, Battle Mage Action, Battle Edge Epic:Spell Recall, Arcane Spirit
Level 30 Str 10 Con 16 Dex 19 Int 25 Wis 12 Cha 19 Encounter: Forceful Retort, Colorspray, Prismatic Burst, Blackfire, Meteor Swarm, Infernal Wrath, Wand of Accuracy Daily: , Wall of Fire*, Closing Spell*, Evard's Black Tentacles, Disintegrate*, Prismatic Spray, Necrotic Web* Utility: Expeditious Retreat, Shield, Invisibility*, Dimension Door, Blur, Arcane Gate*, Arcane Rejuvenation*, Greater Invisibility*, Stoneskin, Mass Fly*, Displacement*, Shape Magic* Feats: Ritual Casting (b), Hellfire Blood, Armor Prof (Leather), Imp Init, Skill Train (Bluff or Stealth), Astral Fire, Danger Sense, Arcane Reach, Sieze the Moment, Great Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes, Fiery Rebuke, Evasion, Irresistible Flame, Spell Accuracy, Font of Radiance, +3** (2 retrained) Paragon: Arcane Riposte, Battle Mage Action, Battle Edge Epic:Spell Recall, Arcane Spirit, Archspell
*typically prepared **given the lack of useful high level feats, one would be best served praying for a splatbook. However, a variety of defensive or utility feats could be chosen here.
Note that you may choose to keep Combust over Colorspray for the damage, but Colorspray is a will targetter, which shouldn't be underestimated.
The Bleed Mage I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, and torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage. -Friedrich Nietzsche
Some sadistic individuals enjoy watching other creatures suffer. It isn't enough to burn them to a crisp or electrocute them, they have to give them acid burns over 80% of their body and then sit back and watch them dissolve into a puddle of goo. And while you're throwing up inside your helmet, they're making a decision along the lines of ketchup or mustard. But no one said the good guys had to be nice guys.
Continuing damage effects were rather uncommon in 3e, and not notably powerful. But 4e has given us a whole slew of ongoing damage effects for our entertainment. That is, if you find lighting someone's pants on fire entertaining - and hey, who doesn't?
Theory and Optimization Goals Like blast mages, the bleed mage wants to maximize damage output, but he's more concerned about single-target damage than his trigger-happy compatriot. As damage per attack against a single target for a wizard cannot compete with a number of other classes, other methods have to be found to achieve this goal. Enter the Ongoing Damage effects. By layering multiple ongoing damage spells on a single target, they can eventually churn out massive damage totals - making them excellent Single or Elite monster killers. Because ongoing damage effects tend to be (save ends) and generated by Daily spells, the bleed mage is more interested in maximizing the effectiveness of one spell rather than hitting with many spells - thus the Orb is the Implement of choice for most bleed mages.
The relative lack of bleeding spells, especially reuseable bleeding spells, means the bleed mage will often splash control and blast spells, making them more well-rounded than those specialized mages. They tend to do quite well at control functions because of their orb and desired high wisdom modifier. Bleed mages also have some concept space overlap with the Master of Space, as some high level space controlling and area damage tactics lead to ongoing damage applied by clouds which is hard for monsters to extricate themselves from. This section will mostly cover ongoing damage effects, but the Master of Space build in the next section should probably also be perused. The ultimate difference between the Master of Space and the Bleed Mage is that bleeders are really after the damage, whereas the Master of Space wants to control the shape of the battlefield by making certain areas hard to access or undesirable to access.
Attributes Like a more standard control mage, a bleed mage cares about intelligence and wisdom primarily, with constitution and charisma in a tertiary position. 16 16 12 12 10 8 is probably the optimal starting array. For more in-depth discussion, see the discussion on control mages.
Races Unfortunately no Int and Wis pumping race exists in either the PHB or the MM. While bleed mages can take the control mage approach and consider wisdom more important than intelligence, wisdom is not nearly as critical for a bleed mage. Making a save means the ongoing damage just ends, which while it undoes the bleed mage's hard work, its not as combat changing as a monster waking up or becoming unstunned. However, many of the races that give an intelligence pump also give a charisma or dexterity pump - neither of which they're especially interested in.
Any of the control mage races are acceptable options - see the control mage section and rankings for an idea of relative strengths.
In addition to those races, Humans (Int) and Githyanki (Int, Con) are also quality choices. Humans are probably better than Githyanki, making them the best intelligence pumping choice for a bleed mage.
Powers While the key focus of a bleed mage is ongoing damage, finding an elemental focus is not a bad idea. Acid will be the typical one, which leads to a feat synergy with cold damage. Their desire to mix some control and blast spells to compliment their bleeding spells will mean they'll have a diverse array of elements - but ultimately that's ok.
There are also a couple of Fire bleed spells, including the sole encounter one, making Astral Radiance also a tempting choice, but hard to accomplish (with the lack of focus on dexterity).
At-Will Arguably a bleed mage could choose any two powers, however they'll probably find MM the most appealing because of its single target damage advantage (since that's the damage optimization they're most interested in). Their second choice will likely be Scorching Burst, but Thunderwave is possible and more desirable from a variety of defenses targettable standpoint. But none of the at-will powers are truly ideal for the bleed mage, so he's really free to choose what he likes.
Encounter Level 1 Chillstrike and Force Orb are likely to be at the top of his list, but ultimately the choice will probably depend on which at-wills he's packing.
Level 3 Fire Shroud is the clear choice, and the only encounter bleed spell in the game at this point - a bleed mage will be loathe to part with it. Unfortunately its fire.
Level 7 Winter's Wrath for the elemental synergy is a possibility, or Fire Burst with a fire theme.
Level 13 Prismatic Burst is both radiance for a fire theme and has a decent control aspect, but Mesmeric Hold may also be tempting - both give him some control options.
Level 17 Any of these powers are reasonable choices. A bleed mage is probably the only archetype that could be tempted to take Ice Tomb - once a monster has some ongoing damage effects the spell will let the bleed mage remove the monster from combat for a little while and accrue damage. Crushing Titan's Fist can also be quite useful for holding creatures steady for ongoing area damage.
Level 23 Acid Storm has possible elemental synergy, it also deals damage at the start of creatures turns, making it not quite as good as ongoing but a decent spell for bleed style tactics
Level 27 Blackfire is probably the least likely pick unless the bleed mage is going for a fire theme. Both confusion and forcecage can be strong picks.
Daily Level 1 Acid Arrow is the obvious pick, although Flaming Sphere or Freezing Cloud isn't bad (as it does provide some ongoing damage).
Level 5 Bigby's Icy Grasp allows some continuous one-target damage, which is right up the Bleed Mage's alley.
Level 9 This level has a lot of great spells for the bleed mage. Lightning Serpent produces an ongoing poison effect, while Mordenkainen's Sword is an attack each round. Wall of Fire is a great spell if the bleed mage also invests in some area control magic for dealing ongoing damage.
Level 15 Bigby's Grasping Hand is an upgrade of a former Bigby's - of course, the bleed mage may well want both. And wall of Ice is a great control spell for bleed mages. Of course, Prismatic Beams can produce two different ongoing damage effects, which makes the choices difficult.
Level 19 Acid Wave produces a pretty large ongoing damage effect, but bleed mages will gravitate towards Disintegrate first. All the spells at this level have some appeal.
Level 25 Prismatic Spray and Necrotic Web will be high on his agenda here.
Level 29 Greater Ice Storm or Legion's Hold are probably his best options at this level.
Utility A bleed mage will want some mobility, but it won't be as important as for the blast mage since he won't be trying to maximize the number of hit enemies and missed allies as frequently. Thus the bleed mage is free to invest more heavily in defensive spells. A key spell (depending on other spell selection) is Timestop, which the bleed mage may well be in a position to take advantage of as an offense multiplier (see Power section).
Feats Chances are your preferred damage pump feat will be Burning Blizzard, but it isn't critical. You may alternately be tempted by Dark Fury. Neither of these should be hard to qualify for. Neither of these are especially strong choices.
Your priority is feats that give a +attack roll modifier, which is reasonably rare. Spell focus is the single most important feat for you, and is available in the paragon tier. Beyond those, either investing in defensive or damage pumping feats is reasonable. The feats section gives advice on the quality of feats in general.
Character Progression Paragon Paths A Bleed Mage can find good uses for both the Battle Mage and Stormspell Mage paths, but Blood Mage is vastly superior to either. It includes a bleed effect producing ability, its capstone spell has a bleed effect, and blood pulse can be used to generated massive damage by subsequently pushing that enemy around the field.
Some Bleed Mages may choose to take the Radiant Servant paragon path from a cleric multiclass, and may even choose to swap out some powers for useful cleric spells - see multiclassing for details.
Epic Destinies Most Bleed Mages will take the Archmage path. The other possible option is Demigod, but its most useful ability is the stat pumps making it less useful as a whole.
A Note on Control Mages Unlike blast and bleed mages, who are pretty happy occupying different niches, most control mages will not solely dedicate themselves to one archetype or the other. Generally, most of them will build like a Master of Puppets but take powers that fit both types. And that's fine - it works. And it gives them a variety of tools. The archetypes are provided because other combinations are possible (Bleeder and Master of Puppets work well together, and a Master of Space can be built like a Blast Mage and be just dandy - possibly even splashing some blasting aspects), and because they represent pure stylized versions of control magic. So don't feel like you have to choose just one, but if you want to do both you should spend more time reading the Master of Puppets section.
Master of Puppets You're dedicated to / How I'm killing you / Come crawling faster / Obey your master - Metallica
Some mages might simply obliterate all who oppose them, leaving nothing but fine ash to scatter in the wind. There are others, however, who find such displays vulgar. These men do not command the raw elements to come forth to do their bidding - they are subtler by far.
The Master of Puppets is haughty and cruel. He wields his power with casual indifference and makes others his slaves. His is the power to compel and to command, to bring giants to their knees and force old friends to attack one another. His is the mastery of mind over matter, and he wields that mastery with brutality and certainty. He is his own ubermensch, and holds to no law but his own.
Theory and Optimization Goals Masters of Puppets want to lay a devastating condition on the enemy and maximize its effectiveness. Generally, this means using a spell with a powerful effect ended by a save, and then using Orb of Imposition (which will be your first implement) to reduce her foe's likelihood of making that save. As such, Wisdom is exceedingly important to a Master of Puppets.
In general, the Master of Puppets cares more about status conditions than about damage, and will be little interested in feats which marginally increase the damage dealt by her spells.
The quality of a status condition is of great interest to a master of puppets. The following is an approximate ranking of status effect quality. In general, abilities which prevent the opponent from acting are valued highly, with reduction of defenses and granting of combat advantage also considered of value. What follows is a ranking of status condition effects achievable with magic, from best to worst:
Many Masters of Puppets will also choose to have some soft control powers, but this is supplemental to powers which directly impose status conditions of high value. (Many higher level soft control powers will immobilize as a status condition, but this is a pretty low value condition at that point - though a Master of Puppets may well choose to have such a power)
Attributes With PB you will want to invest equally in intelligence and wisdom. After that you'll need a 12 charisma for Spell Focus at 11th level, and will probably want to invest the remainder of your points in constitution for another 12, although some may choose dexterity. This means your attribute array is almost certainly 16 16 12 12 10 8.
When you advance attributes, always advance intelligence and wisdom.
The high value of wisdom for a Master of Puppets makes multi-classing rather difficult unless you want to multiclass into Cleric. (And you probably do, see paragon paths).
Races The sad fact is that no race gives both an intelligence and wisdom boost in either the MM or the PHB. As such, we'll need to choose one or the other. There has been a lot of debate about whether intelligence or wisdom is more important for a control wizard even before the official release of 4E. The discussion on this thread contains some of that discussion, and an exchange starting here was rather informative. In my opinion, wisdom is a more important attribute to get from your race than intelligence, so long as you can also get some kind of attack boosting power to go with it, and the math in the linked thread supports that conclusion even before considering the rewards of higher wisdom.
As such, I only consider Elf and Human suitable candidates for a Master of Puppets or general control wizard.
Elf With +2 wisdom +2 dexterity, by taking dex over con you can get into Arcane Reach at 11th level, and plausibly be interested in picking up wand with Second Implement. Alternately, you can stick with a 12 Con and just not care that you got the dexterity pump.
The real reward comes in the form of Elven Accuracy, which lets you re-roll a miss as an encounter power. This ability is extremely powerful for landing that critical spell. First, you don't spend it if you hit on the first roll, so there's no expenditure required up front. And if you do need it, as your to hit chance will often be in the 50% ballpark or better, its a massive boost in overall probability of hitting. And there's the Elven Precision feat you will be taking at 1st level to make it even better.
Beyond this, you get a racial bonus to perception, which will help keep you from being surprised, and you increase the perception of the party as well. You also can shift normally even in difficult terrain, making it easier for you to get out of trouble (which may be invaluable). All in all, an elf offers a lot to a control wizard.
Human I would maintain you put your +2 attribute bonus into wisdom. However, humans remain a distant second to elves. Sure, they get an extra at-will (and for a wizard this is actually useful), better defenses overall, and an extra feat and skill. They also get access to some amazing human only feats, of which Action Surge will be your first feat taken. This lets you get a +3 to attack on your AP action. Its not as good as elven accuracy, and you can only use it 1/2 encounters (rate you acquire AP), but it is a significant attack boost when you want to land a spell.
The next best race would be dwarf, and it's so far behind it's barely worth mentioning. (Strangely enough, Drow give neither an Intelligence or Wisdom boost, and if any race was going to be Int and Wis, you'd have thought it would be them).
Powers The Master of Puppets is most interested in powers which apply status effects, followed by soft control powers. However, minion control may be of some concern at low levels.
At-Will Ray of Frost is the logical power choice, and most will also choose Thunderwave. Some may replace one of these with Scorching Burst in early levels for added minion control, but will retrain it into one of the other two by 11th at the latest. A human may snag all three, or take MM instead of one for the basic ranged attack.
Encounter At level 1, while Ray of Enfeeblement and Chillstrike may be more up your alley, if you don't have a reflex targetter yet Icy Terrain is quite appealing.
Level 3 gives you colorspray. You take it.
Level 7 isn't very interesting. Either Winter's Wrath or Spectral Ram are ok, and you probably take Winter's Wrath.
Level 13 lets you trade out either your level 1 or 7 for one of Mesmeric Hold or Prismatic Burst. Its a tough call, Mesmeric Burst gives you a +4 to hit against one target, while Prismatic Burst has the better status condition.
Level 17 has Force Volley, which you take without hesitation (trading out the other of levels 1 or 7). Crushing Titan's Fist is appealing, but not nearly as good.
Level 23 has thunderclap, for which you might trade colorspray or your level 13, but probably colorspray. You may also decide you're not interested because it targets fortitude and pass on exchanging a power this level.
Level 27 has confusion, which you take, probably trading Colorspray if you still have it.
Daily At level 1 you take Sleep, which is probably the best spell you will ever have. Flaming Sphere of Freezing Cloud make good second choices.
Level 5 brings with it the obvious Web and either Bigby's or Stinking Cloud, probably Bigby's.
Level 9 has Lightning Serpent, which you'll probably take. Wall of Fire and Ice Storm are also plausible.
At level 15 you have ridiculously good choices. My picks are two of Otiluke's Resilient Sphere, Wall of Ice, and Prismatic Beams (drop the non-sleep level 1 and the non-web level 5), but every single one of them is appealing.
At level 19 you get Evard's. You may also want Cloudkill or to grab another level 15. Drop both level 9s you chose.
At level 25 you'll want Necrotic Web and Prismatic Spray. Trading Web for Necrotic Web and Prismatic Beams for Spray are solid choices, but no trade you could make here would be wrong except dropping Sleep.
Level 29 features one spell of interest to you: Legion's Hold. Trade anything but Sleep for it.
In case you didn't guess, Sleep is both a level 1 spell and the best hard control spell there is. Nothing else produces a status condition as good as unconsciousness.
Utility Wall of Fog and Arcane Gate will be the only ones that really jump out at you as being immediately relevant to your specialization, but defensive and mobility spells can all be useful to you.
Feats You will take Spell Focus at 11th level. As an elf you will take Elf Precision at first level. As a human your bonus feat will be Action Surge. At epic levels, your first feat will be Spell Accuracy. Aside from that, the general advice for feats applies. If you have a lot of psychic powers, Psychic Lock will appeal to you. If you have a lot of cold powers Wintertouched and Lasting Frost will appeal to you. Avoid feats that only increase your damage. And you won't want to miss Danger Sense or Improved Initiative.
Many Masters of Puppets will want to take the Initiate of the Faith feat to open up cleric paragon paths. See Character Progression below.
Paragon Paths By far the best paragon path is the Cleric's Divine Oracle, and the Master of Puppets will have the wisdom to do well here. The biggest difficulty will be using two implements (see multi-classing), but only the level 20 requires an attack roll (and if you miss you get to do over), so this isn't a major issue. Foresight is amazing, and Prophetic Action can greatly increase your mobility when you need it. And Terrifying Insight is crazy powerful, plus you get two buffing powers. This is everything you were ever looking for.
Its biggest competition will be from Blood Mage, whose level 20 spell is simply amazing, and almost as good as Legion's Hold but available 9 levels earlier. There are some cute (and specific) tricks with Blood Pulse as well, and Soul Burn can regenerate an encounter power for you as needed. Finally, Burning Blood is an instant minion killer if your constitution modifier is at least +1, and with an area of effect of 121 squares centered on you, its pretty effective at doing that. Blood mage can't really compete with Divine Oracle, but it does lend itself to some interesting builds and combos which means it could be fun to play, even if DO is more powerful.
Spellstorm mage looks tempting, but it doesn't synergize with your goals especially well. It has a +damage power, something that would appeal to a blast mage but not you, it has an area minion nuke but unlike Blood Mage you can't control it, and you can get a power back 1/day, but to get the ones you really want (daily attack spells) will require a really good roll. Storm Cage is a great soft control power, as is Sudden Storm, and Maelstrom of Chaos lets you move someone, but you'd trade them all for Destructive Salutation.
Epic Destinies It may be surprising to realize that Archmage is not automatic. However, its not hard to see why the egotistical and haughty Master of Puppets may be drawn to the Demigod destiny. The first important thing about Demigod is the +2 to two attributes you get right away at 21st level with Divine Spark. This will let you push normal monsters off the save RNG by 28th level with your orb power, which means 1/combat a monster goes down and doesn't come back up on your first hit - this alone is almost enough to justify Demigod as a choice. The Divine Miracle power lets you trade up to always using an encounter power, which markedly improves your combat performance. And its hard to complain about the other two lifesaving features.
Archmage is still a strong choice, however, as your dailies are even more important to you than your encounter powers, and archmage is all about recycling daily spells. Needless to say, choosing between Archmage and Demigod is a matter of preference and style.
Sample Character Coming Soon
Master of Space Those who were called skillful leaders of old knew how to drive a wedge between the enemy's front and rear; to prevent co-operation between his large and small divisions; to hinder the good troops from rescuing the bad, the officers from rallying their men. -Sun Tzu
A Master of Space alters the land around him to suit his purposes. He calls forth poisonous clouds from the earth, raises huge walls of ice before him, and becalms the wind to leave a low-lying fog. His actions do not compel his enemies to do things, instead he blinds them with rain and hedges them about with dangerous areas. He makes the ground rough beneath their feet and causes their charges to falter. Where the Master of Puppets bends a foe's body to his will, the Master of Space breaks a foe's will to fight by making it seem impossibly hard to merely move about the field.
Masters of Space are not hot tempered or haughty. They are cool as ice, hard as granite and as slow to anger. When a Master of Space speaks people listen, because his words will be weighed and careful. On the battlefield he works with precision, dividing the enemy, obscuring sight here and making passage treacherous there. He makes no rash actions. His way is serenity, the beauty and elegance of strategic mastery, and the cold logic of a game. But the reality he creates is as brutal as the wild places - beautiful yet savage - and ultimately as deadly against the unprepared.
Theory and Optimization Goals What a Master of Space is ultimately optimizing is his ability to control the shape of the battlefield. This means he wants effects that create difficult terrain and cloud effects to obscure vision and deal damage to creatures in them. Surprisingly, this means his immediate attribute demands are rather loose - he has no real need for anything other than intelligence.
His reliance on persistent AoE effects means he's going to be interested on effects that don't require sustenance (so he can maintain other effects). He's also going to be interested in damage dealing because many of his tactics involve discouraging enemies from using space into which he has cast his spells - damage pumping feats are of great interest to a pure Master of Space. He'll also favor effects which obscur sight or have other worthwhile effects in addition to or instead of dealing damage.
Attributes For a general control mage, see the Master of Puppets at the start of this section. The following is intended for a pure Master of Space.
A focused Master of Space cares most about Intelligence. As such he may very well want to invest in an 18. Afterwards he'll be primarily interested in one of Wisdom or Charisma, and in Constitution. The (at least somewhat) desirable feats with attribute prerequisites for a Master of Space include Burning Blizzard and Dark Fury, because Cold and Necrotic are common keywords for effects he is interested in, meaning Wisdom will be preferred to Charisma.
Some plausible attribute builds include 18 13 13 10 10 8 17 14 14 10 10 8 16 14 14 13 10 8 4th attribute is dexterity for the initiative bonus
Masters of Space may choose to build like a Blast Mage, and might prefer Wand focus for his implement mastery. Alternately, a staff for the defensive benefits is tangibly useful with even the more intelligence skewed attribute distributions.
Races It is imperative that the Master of Space net an intelligence boost from his race. The plausible races are laid out in the blast mage section above, but the preference ordering is notably different.
Any Master of Space who chooses a staff implement will favor Githyanki as a race with its Int and Con pumps.
Charisma boosting races are less favorable as a Master of Space has little need of a good charisma score.
Dexterity boosting races are also unfavorable unless building like a blast mage.
Humans remain solid choices because of their versatility.
This makes the ordering look something like the following: 1. Githyanki 2. Human 3. Eladrin* 4. Shadar-Kai*, Tiefling 5. Gnome, Doppelganger
*Eladrin and Shadar-Kai shift down a notch if dexterity isn't considered important.
Powers The general need for diversity in powers is less pronouced for a Master of Space because many of their powers will not require an attack roll, or despite opening with an attack roll will still have an effect even if that roll misses. As such, the defense they target is far less relevant than it might otherwise be. But diversity that can be acquired without difficulty should be embraced. A Master of Shape should have no problems finding useful fortitude and reflex targetting powers. Will may be harder to find powers for that fulfill the functions desired by a Master of Space, and he may feel the need to dabble a little bit to have some will-targetting powers at hand. A Master of Space taking Dark Fury will prefer psychic powers for filling this niche.
At-Will Powers Cloud of Daggers has some space limiting effects, although its power is rather limited. A human Master of Space will surely take it as a power, but others may pass (at least at low levels). Thunderwave and Scorching Burst are a likely combination if Cloud of Daggers is not taken, as the ability to reliably target an area of effect does encourage his foes to spread out more and thus encourages them to limit their use of space. At later levels a Master of Space may swap a power out for Ray of Frost for the cold synergies.
Encounter Powers At level 1 Icy Terrain is the obvious choice, and it has a good effect as well.
Level 3 has no clear choices, but Colorspray gives him a Will targetting power, and is thus probably the best choice.
Level 7 has Winter's Wrath, which is perfect. That nothing else available that level is even plausibly interesting doesn't hurt.
Level 13 has Frostburn, which is quite useful for area control.
Level 17 notably features Crushing Titan's Fist.
Level 23's most likely choice is Acid Storm
Level 27 would be equally well served by Confusion or Forcecage, although Forcecage probably feels more thematic.
Daily Powers At level 1, Freezing Cloud or Flaming Sphere are equally good options.
Level 5 features a tough choice between Web and Stinking Cloud.
Level 9 has both Wall of Fire and Ice Storm
Level 15 has the obvious Wall of Ice, but no clear frontrunner for a second choice. Blast of Cold has elemental synergy.
Level 19 has Cloudkill and Evard's Black Tentacles
Level 25 has Necrotic Web. Anything after that you'll never use.
Level 29 has Greater Ice Storm, although you may be tempted by Legion's Hold.
Utility A Master of Space is ultimately defensive in his outlook.
Level 2 favors Expeditious Retreat and Shield.
Level 6 has Wall of Fog. Dispel Magic is a likely second choice.
Level 10 has Arcane Gate, which a Master of Space will definitely want. Either Blur or Mirror Image are good second choices.
Level 16 has all good choices.
Level 22 has timestop, something a Master of Space will find quite useful.
Feats Your priorities for feats will certainly include Wintertouched and Lasting Frost due to the large number of cold spells in your repetoire. As noted earlier, you may also want either or both of Burning Blizzard or Dark Fury, but they aren't critical. Spell Accuracy will be your most important grab in epic.
Otherwise the feats section has good advice on feats.
Overview Multiclassing creates unique demands on the character, because powers from a second class will often not synergize well with powers from your primary class. As there are hard limits on bonuses to attack, attributes are now more important than ever, and an attribute more than +2 lower than your best attribute is probably next to useless for making an attack roll. Especially as monster defenses scale up faster than your attack bonuses do. This means that a character who intends to seriously multiclass needs to make some compromises on secondary attributes for any given class in order to get two good attributes - one for each class. Alternately, they need to select as their secondary class something which synergizes well with their secondary attribute(s).
Wizards have additional barriers to multiclassing for two reasons. First, no one else needs intelligence like a wizard needs intelligence (although it is a useful secondary attribute for a few classes), whereas most other classes have a second class that shares their primary attribute. Second, wizards get 2 for 1 utility and daily power selection when choosing spells - something they don't get when taking powers multi-class (excepting Warlock, who also gets spells). Thus multi-classing is a hard choice for a wizard to make.
This isn't to say that the first multi-classing feat won't be taken often. It gives skill training and a potentially useful class ability. But true multiclassing (all four feats and a non-wizard paragon path) is going to be unusual for a wizard and demand special attention to build synergies. This section will look at the viability of various multiclasses, possible attribute builds, and ultimately come to conclusions about which multiclasses could be expected to truly perform in play.
This section covers wizards who multi-class into other classes. Multi-classing *into* wizard is covered in the next section.
Implements Many multi-class wizards will opt to take staff focus for their implement because it provides a general bonus that depends on an attribute useful to everyone - constitution. This lacks the focused benefits of the other two implements, but makes up for it by not requiring special investment into possibly otherwise unneeded attributes.
Multi-class builds which favor dex or wis will tend to take wand or orb focus respectively because they're already investing in the proper attribute. Similarly, straight wizards using a wand or orb build may be tempted to particular multiclasses (at least in a dabbling way) because they already have invested in the relevant attribute.
Unlike in 3.x, Wiz/Clr multiclassing no longer makes us cry. Former versions were either unplayably bad (Mystic Theurge, True Necromancer), or unplayably broken (Ur Priest...). In fact, many wizards will trivially qualify for the multi-class feat, and many will even have enough wisdom to make use of cleric attack powers. Even those who don't may find some powers of interest. Primarily this means Bleed Mages and Masters of Puppets will find cleric multiclassing rewarding, with some possible benefits for Masters of Space. Blast Mages will generally be unwilling to trade their superior AoE damage effects, though if they have the wisdom they may swap a utility power.
It is assumed that a Wizard multiclassing into Cleric will not have the strength to take advantage of the strength-based attack powers. A wizard willing to invest in that much strength is probably headed into a multiclass like Fighter, and will be rare regardless.
Needing both a holy symbol and a wizard implement can become painful at mid-high levels, as the magic item investment needed to keep up with both of them will become prohibitive. If your DM is nice, he may let you use your wizard implement as a holy symbol for a deity of magic, but don't count on that.
Class Specific Feat: Initiate of the Faith (Wis 13) The feat itself is fairly weak for a wizard. Religion is on your class skill list, and Healing Word isn't something you're going to show much interest in. Most wizards who take this feat are using it to gain access to a paragon path or cleric powers (with a possible eye to full multiclassing).
Novice Power A few really good choices exist. Unfortunately, you won't have the high charisma to really take advantage of many of the wisdom based powers, and many of them are also single target, which may not be of interest. The ones that may be worth losing a wizard power are: *Cause Fear Clr 1, In addition to being a wisdom vs. will power (meaning high likelihood of hitting), it also combines amazingly well with Blood Pulse from the blood mage paragon path. By far the best possible encounter power you can acquire from the cleric list. *Enthrall Clr 17, Area of effect, decent damage, decent hard control, and you don't have to worry about including your allies in the AoE.
Acolyte Power Cleric utility powers can be of benefit to everyone. The key is finding ones which are the equal or superior to anything you have in-class for what you're doing. The following would all appear to be solid choices: *Bless Clr 2, Getting bonuses to attack is always good. And even with a full cleric in the party its a daily power, so doubling your uses per day is never a bad thing. *Knights of Unyielding Valor Clr 10, Great for controlling enemy movement, Masters of Space may find it quite useful. *Hallowed Ground Clr 16, +2 saves, defenses, and attacks in a reasonably good area. Again, daily, and extra uses for the party are nothing to be scoffed at.
Adept Power There are some great Cleric dailies for a wizard to splash. The following lists the best of them. *Astral Defenders Clr 9, Masters of Space with good wisdom, or possibly Masters of Puppets may find this quite useful for discouraging enemy movement. *Blade Barrier Clr 9, Masters of Space and Bleed Mages will love this power *Flame Strike Clr 9, A beautiful Bleed Mage power, with good ongoing fire damage. *Purifying Fire Clr 15, Another great Bleed Mage power. *Seal of Warding Clr 15, Good AoE damage that won't hurt allies, difficult terrain, and slows targets. Great for control mages of all stripes. *Firestorm Clr 19, Masters of Space or Bleeders may be quite interested. *Knight of Glory Clr 19, Bleeders may find this useful. *Astral Storm Clr 29, Lets face it, this is substantially better than Meteor Swarm, and that makes us sad monkeys. Unfortunately, Blast Mages will lack the wisdom to hit with it, but Bleed Mages and Masters of Space would much rather have this than the Wiz 29 offerings.
Paragon Paths Two of the paragon paths for clerics are potentially of great interest to a wizard: Divine Oracle and Radiant Servant. Multiclassing as a cleric doesn't create any new incentives to choose wizard paragon paths, but all the ones that would have been desirable without multiclassing still are.
The divine oracle is great for any control mage, but especially Masters of Puppets. It helps you win initiative and can hit more often with Terrifying Insight against will defense - what most of your good powers are going to be targetting. Your encounter power won't enthrall you (although its still pretty good), but Good Omens is absolutely amazing. And for when you need damage, Hammer of Fate is both beefy and has you covered when you miss. Masters of Puppets will have a hard time choosing between this and blood mage.
Radiant Servant seems custom made for Bleed Mages. Another way to dump ongoing damage on an enemy, more criticals, and a -2 save penalty to undead and demons. Solar Wrath and Healing Sun are ok, while Radiant Brilliance is a great single-target effect that could also take out some minions (perfect for bleed mages). As usual, its competition is blood mage.
And the there is the full multi-class into cleric. Generally the wizard at-will powers will still be better for you, but you may well want to get a second utility and daily power from the cleric class. Encounter powers are a little more questionable - but there are at least some competitive powers worth looking into.
Epic Destinies Full multi-classing characters may avoid Archmage solely because so many of their powers come from the cleric class (and aren't spells). Demigod and Eternal Seeker are both reasonable choices.
Radiant Servants and Divine Oracles will probably gravitate towards Archmage, but may find Demigod tempting.
An example of the kinds of things a control wizard/cleric can do was posted as the Arcane Assassin, by Setentaebolg.
Class Specific Feat: Student of the Sword (Str 13)
Wizard/Paladin Class Specific Feat: Soldier of the Faith (Str 13 Cha 13)
Wizard/Ranger Class Specific Feat: Warrior of teh Wild (Str or Dex 13)
Wizard/Rogue Class Specific Feat: Sneak of Shadows (Dex 13)
Wizard/Warlock Class Specific Feat: Pact Initiate (Cha 13)
Wizard/Warlord Class Specific Feat: Student of Battle (Str 13)
Power Overview Not only will a mage want powers that compliment their preferred mode of operation, they'll want a variety of such powers. Variety is important for a couple of reasons. First, the best powers for any given style of play are going to be daily powers, meaning you'll only get to use each one once - if you want a consistent playstyle, you'll need multiple. Second, the ability to target a variety of defenses on demand is in the ballpark of a +3 to-hit equivalence on average. That's pretty awesome. Third, powers that operate within your preferred style will also tend to be the ones that work best with your attribute layout.
This list does not include paragon path spells - those are covered under the relevant paragon path discussions.
The following lists use the following shorthand. (1)A spell name is color coded based on the style of spell it primarily is as follows: Blast, Bleed, hard control, Soft Control. Spells which are multiple styles are normal text color, and will have a note. All spell names are also italicized. (2)The spell name will have a number of asterices (*) following it from 1-3, rating its quality for its dominant meme. A single star means its of situational value at best. Two stars means its good at the level it becomes available, but will be replaceable later without a problem. Three stars means it is an excellent spell for quite a while, if not indefinitely. (At-will powers will not be rated as they can't be swapped). (3)Spell names will be followed by a parenthetical that specifies the defense they target. (F), (R), (W) (4)If the spell is mechanically impacted by an attribute besides intelligence, it will be specified after a slash. eg, '/wis'. This only covers mechanical effects specified in the spell description itself. (5)If the spell applies a status effect, it will be noted after a dash, such as '-stun'. This will be followed by an (s) if only a save ends the effect. Ongoing effects will give damage type and number. (6)Spells may have notes about them under the spell name. If they do, the spell + discussion will be separated from other spells by a carriage return.
At-Will Cloud of Daggers (R) /wis Magic Missile (R) Ray of Frost (F) -slow Scorching Burst (R) Thunderwave (F) /wis -push
Encounter Level 1 Burning Hands* (R) Chillstrike** (F) -daze Force Orb** (R) Icy Terrain** (R) -prone -diff terrain Ray of Enfeeblement* (F) -weak
Thunderlance* (R) -push4 While pushing is normally a soft-control feature, thunderlance is also the highest damage dealing spell for level 13 E powers.
Level 17 Combust** (R)
Crushing Titan's Fist** (F) -immobile -diff++ terrain It has both hard (immobilize) and soft (difficult terrain) control abilities, but as it really doesn't compete with Force Volley in terms of hard control its more of a soft control choice for this level.
Force Volley*** (R) -daze Ice Tomb* (F) -immobilize -no LoS
Lightning Serpent** (R) -slow(s) -poison5(s) This spell is equal parts hard control and bleed.
Mordenkainen's Sword** (R)
Wall of Fire* -wall Wall of fire is only really good in combination with other effects. So it rates pretty low on its own. If your party is good at immobilizing creatures, wall of fire can be amazing in combination as a bleed effect.
Level 15 Bigby's Grasping Hand*** (R) -grab As the earlier version, this spell is both hard control and bleed in style. Grab is escaped in manner other than making a save.
Blast of Cold** (F) -immobilize(s) -slow(s) While it has hard control elements, for a level 15 daily spell they aren't very impressive, making the primary purpose of this spell more about blasting than control, as it deals good damage.
Otiluke's Resilient Sphere*** (R) -trapped in sphere -immobilize(s)
Prismatic Beams** (F,R,W) -fire5(s) -pois5(s) -daze(s) This spell is equally a bleed and hard control spell, and reasonably blast-worthy too. Virtually every mage has a reason to learn this. The spell would rate even better if it wasn't for Prismatic Spray at level 25, which is a pure upgrade.
Wall of Ice*** -wall This power is simply amazing for anyone who wants to shape the battlefield. You can trap someone inside, possibly more than one someone against a wall. You can divide enemy forces. One of the most interesting and best spells in the wizard's arsenal.
Level 19 Acid Wave** (R) -acid10(s)
Cloudkill** -cloud Its Stinking Cloud with a larger area. Even the damage is the same, and that damage is pretty lousy at this level. However, it requires no attack roll to hit, which is nice, and with its larger area its best considered as minion control.
Disintegrate*** (R) -force10(s) -force5(s) This is a good blast spell as well.
Evard's Black Tentacles** (R) -immobile(s) This has aspects of every style except blasting.
Level 25 Elemental Maw** (R) -"maw" (see spell) The damage is actually a little weak when you realize you can do almost as much damage with an encounter spell at this point, and will be able to do as much with one in 2 levels. But the maw effects are interesting and possibly useful.
Maze* (W) -sequester Simply not a very good spell as written because it doesn't use the save mechanic, so there's no way to good way to make it a near lockdown, and you can't damage the monster while its in the maze, making it vastly inferior to the stun effects that are easily available at these levels.
Necrotic Web**(*) (R) -immobile(s) -difficult terrain This spell has a minor hard control aspect, but also strong Bleed and Soft Control elements. Its of mediocre power on its own, but combos exceedingly well into Timestop damage multiplication.
Prismatic Spray*** (F,R,W) -slow(s) -daze(s) -fire15(s) This spell fits into every category except soft control. Its also an amazing spell.
Level 29 Greater Ice Storm** (F) -immobile(s) -slow(s) -difficult terrain Its only real improvement is it deals more damage, which isn't that exciting since its purpose is control more than damage.
Legion's Hold*** (W) -stun(s) -daze(s) One of the best two spells in the game universally available to wizards. The other one is Sleep. This is the only level 29 spell they got right.
Meteor Swarm* (R) Its got 2 more dice of damage relative to elemental maw, but no other effects whatsoever. Its also only 2 dice more of damage than the best encounter damage spell, and when its only available 1/day that just isn't very exciting. Seriously, this may be the biggest waste of a daily spell slot ever imagined. To make this even plausibly worthwhile it would need to do d10s in damage and probably add some dice and some ongoing damage too. Its a level 29 spell, it needs to ooze awesome.
Utility Utility doesn't divide into combat types likes other spells do, so a different classification system is needed. The following spells will be coded to represent Defense, Movement, and Control, with other spells remaining the normal black color.
Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion* As usual this is a novelty spell.
Timestop** Timestop's value really depends on what you need to do with it. It can be amazing when comboed with spells like Wall of Ice or Wall of Fire (which don't make an attack but will do damage). Admittedly to get more diversity in options like that you'll need to multiclass. It can also be good to buy some time to trigger defensive abilities. Remember that you generally want to use this after your standard action so you can make a normal attack first. See this thread for details on maximizing Timestop advantage.
Feat Overview All characters have three priorities in feats: Offense, Defense, and Utility, in approximately that order. For a wizard, offense options exhaust themselves within each tier within a few feats, so some feats will be spent on defense and utility. Utility from feats isn't all that impressive for the most part, but we'll look at what few good options there are.
Unlike in prior editions where attribute prereqs were ultimately little barrier to feat entry, planning out your attributes to qualify for feats you care about requires effort, and an annoying attribute prereq may just mean its better to skip the feat entirely.
The following will discuss each feat a wizard is likely to consider taking and rate that feat from one to three asterices. If a feat is clearly superior for particular mage archetypes it will be color coded Blast or Control, and will be rated in the context of the style it is best suited for. (Bleed and soft-control tend towards a more hybrid feat building, and may want to consider feats from either side). Related to this, feats associated with races that make terrible wizards will not be discussed.
Each tier is divided into Offensive, Defensive, and Utility lists. Feats which are multiple types will be discussed in the category they're most beneficial to and cross-referenced in the other. Feats which are unlikely to be of value to a wizard are not discussed. (Wizards who are multi-classing will likely want to reference handbooks for the class they multiclass into - such an in-depth coverage of every possible multiclass's feat preferences is beyond the scope of this article).
Heroic Tier Offensive Action Surge*** (Human) While its only 1/2 combats, action surge provides an amazing +3 to hit, or a 15% shift in to-hit probabilities. Human blast mages will find this to be a useful supplement to their wand focus ability, and human control mages will find this essential for landing critical control spells they want to use their orb on. Overall better for control mages, but useful for any wizard.
Astral Fire** Its +1 damage/tier, which for a blast mage is useful. As fire damage is also common for good blasting spells, this is usually a top choice. The Dex prereq is easy to meet, but the charisma prereq is annoying. Not every blast mage will want this feat because many will want wisdom for skill synergies, but trading wis for cha is possible to build around. Control wizards should avoid this like the plague.
Burning Blizzard* While its also a +1 damage/tier, it keys off cold and acid damage - not especially common for dedicated blast mages. Cold damage tends to be control spells, and as maximizing DPS isn't their concern, they won't be interested. Acid damage tends to be bleed spells, and while they do care about DPS, they're more interested in maximizing the duration of ongoing damage - they might take this feat, but they probably won't. Fortunately for them, the Int/Wis attribute prereq will be easy to meet, so they don't need to make any sacrifices to use it (or the feat would never see play).
Combat Reflexes* Dex 13 prereq means a blast mage could very well qualify. However, wizards have some serious issues with actually getting opportunity attacks unless they want to use a staff (or are a race with a useful weapon proficiency they care to carry). Mages heading towards the Spiral Tower paragon path will find this feat more useful than most.
Dark Fury* Its a necrotic and psychic damage booster, which also aren't common blast damage types. Psychic is mostly the domain of control mages, and they aren't interested. Necrotic tends towards control as well, but the feat goes very well with Necrotic Web - any wizard planning on timestop abuse will consider this feat, but probably not until epic tier (as necrotic web is the only spell that makes it really worthwhile, and its a level 25). Alternately, a Blood Mage might consider this spell since they can add psychic damage to any spell. The only thing that prevents this from being useful to a blood mage blaster is its a feat bonus, so the blast mage can't actually use blood mage to stack this with another feat like Astral Fire - otherwise it would actually be a decent feat.
Dwarven Weapon Training* (Dwarf) Why god why are you attacking creatures with weapons? You're going to have low strength, probably an 8. Melee attacks are a really bad idea.
Eladrin Soldier* (Eladrin) See Dwarven Weapon Training.
Elf Precision*** (Elf) Getting a +2 bonus on your re-roll 1/combat is amazing no matter what type of wizard you are.
Ferocious Rebuke* (Tiefling) You don't need it, but it can be useful. As its a tiefling feat, you're probably a blast mage - it'll give you a little control to accompany your blasting. Unfortunately, it requires 13 Cha, which means you've already made the choice to take Cha instead of Wis. (Wizard/Warlocks may find this power quite useful).
Hellfire Blood*** (Tiefling) All tiefling blast mages should skip Astral Fire and grab this instead. The +1 to hit makes it really awesome.
Improved Initiative*** Going earlier is always an advantage - you can likely catch enemies while they're grouped up. That said, this feat is slightly less valuable to a blast mage than a control mage - they already have a decent dexterity, and the net effect of possibly dealing damage to a few more creatures is much less than possibly ending the encounter because you got to drop your sleep spell on every opponent before they ever acted.
Quickdraw* Its not as good as Improved Initiative, but being able to draw an implement as part of casting a spell could conceivably be useful. Most wizards will take Improved Initiative instead.
Raging Storm** The Con and Dex prereqs shouldn't be hard to meet, and lightning is a reasonably frequent blast mage damage type. Astral Fire is probably better, but harder to qualify for, making these two about equal in value.
Tactical Assault (Warlord)*** While it requires multiclassing, this feat deserves mentioning because you are already going to have a high intelligence, making it quite worthwhile if you can qualify.
Wintertouched*** If you're a control mage, not only is this situational combat advantage (which is sweet for the +2 to hit), but in paragon tier you can turn it into not-so-situational with Lasting Frost. A necessary feat for control mages who select a lot of cold-based spells.
Defensive Alertnerss** The +2 to perception is just a side benefit - the real bonus here is not giving away combat advantage because you're surprised. Its a great heroic tier feat, although you'll probably want to retrain it into Uncanny Dodge at the Paragon Tier as Uncanny Dodge is a strict upgrade for any use you care about.
Armor Proficiency (Leather)*** Basically, a flat +2 AC bonus at low levels, which is pretty nice. Its the biggest unqualified defense boost you can get at the heroic tier - comparable to Great Fortitude and similar feats at the paragon tier. And its not even a Feat bonus, so you can stack it with feats that give such a bonus to AC. Given the limited number of useful feats, I imagine a lot of wizards will walk around in leather armor. The fact that higher quality leathers with better base AC become available later only increases its value.
Armor Proficiency (Hide)** Hide is only a minor upgrade over leather armor, giving a +1 net bonus to AC. This is an ok use of a feat, but many wizards will probably pass.
Armor Proficiency (other)* Losing Int to AC is a bad trade - you're seriously setting feats on fire for no real benefit. Don't do it.
Defensive Mobility** Its a situational +2 bonus to AC. Its value will really depend on how often you find yourself provoking Opportunity Attacks. A party with good party defense will devalue this feat. A party that leaves you hanging frequently will make this feat quite valuable.
Dodge Giants*** (Dwarf) +1 AC and Reflex against a large number of creatures is amazing. There are a lot of large+ creatures, this is a situation you can count on occurring with high frequency.
Durable* 2 additional healing surges is ok, and useful to anyone, but it'll probably be the last thing on your list as a wizard.
Escape Artist* It can be ok if you find yourself getting grabbed a lot, but your escape artist check isn't going to be anything to write home about, even with this feat. (Of higher benefit to blast mages, who will at least have a dexterity they aren't ashamed of).
Human Perserverance*** (Human) +1 to all saving throws is made of win. If you're human, you will choose this feat sometime before 11th level.
Shield Proficiency (Light)* The strength prereq is brutal, but if for some reason you meet it, you open up your shield slot and the AC bonus is nice. Not generally recommended, but quicky builds might go for it.
Toughness* You'll probably take Expanded Spellbook before this, and that feat isn't very good either.
Utility Expanded Spellbook* It only gives you more options, not more uses per day. As you can get a pretty good range of options with 2 choices each time something goes into your spellbook, this feat doesn't really add anything. Bleed mages are the most likely to take advantage of it, since they tend to sit between control and blast most of the time and may want options for either.
Jack of All Trades** This is probably the best utility feat in the game, especially if you have a lot of skill challenges. That said, its not essential. Utility feats really are a luxury, but you'll probably at least think about this one.
Light Step* (Elf) It would take a very particular campaign type to make this feat worth anything at all. Pass unless you're re-enacting lord of the rings and you really do have a party of monsters 4 levels higher than you on your trail.
Linguist** Its better than casting comprehend languages. If you take it, you'll likely find yourself retraining it every so often just to change which languages you know. "Didn't you speak Klingon last week?" "Yeah, but it got overwritten by Romulan when I leveled".
Skill Focus** If a particular skill comes up a lot, you may care about having this. Also, taking skill focus in Arcana, Nature, or Religion can help with your ritual DCs if you use rituals a lot. Unlike previous editions, a +3 really is a big deal.
Skill Training** Not as good as multi-classing for your first skill, but if you're in a high skill use campaign you may want this. It also lets you grab any skill, which can be quite useful. Perception is probably the best grab.
Paragon Tier Offensive Arcane Reach*** A beautiful feat for blast mages, the high dex req makes it prohibitively expensive for control mages to qualify.
Danger Sense*** A substantial boost to your chances at winning initiative, especially if you took Improved Initiative.
Devastating Critical* Blast Mages might care. The overall boost to average damage is so small its negligible.
Fiery Rebuke*** (Tiefling) Pure gold every time you get to use your racial power, especially when you're making AoE attacks.
Inescapable Force* Blast mages might care, but its really situational. Insubstantial foes aren't notably common - if they are in your campaign world this feat is worthwhile.
Lasting Frost*** Essential for cold-using control mages in combination with Wintertouched. Its combat advantage in a handbasket.
Lightning Arc** Not only does it combo with Raging Storm, its not a bad ability when fighting multiple monsters. Its limit on targetting monsters already effected means its far better when it happens early, as lightning spells tend to have a primary, and then secondary and even tertiary targets. If a primary hit scores a critical, you can affect them with this power and then nail them with a secondary, because as of the primary hit they weren't yet effected. Blast mages focusing on lightning will definitely take this.
Point Blank Shot* Blast wizards may care. Control wizards probably won't. Being within 5 squares isn't really where you want to be.
Psychic Lock** If you're going to be using a lot of psychic spells anyway, this provides a nice additional control element. Mages not using many psychic powers should pass.
Resounding Thunder* Blast Mages won't care because most thunder effects are control. Control mages won't care because there aren't very many of them. Basically, this feat is currently too limited in scope. A mage could get a lot of use out of it with Thunderwave, but that's a reasonably situational spell.
Running Shot* (Elf) Might be situationally useful.
Sieze the Moment*** A great feat, but the Dex prereq will keep control mages out. Mages with high dexterity would be foolish to not take it.
Spell Focus*** The crowning jewel of feats for a control mage, its worth starting with 12 Cha just for this feat. Blast mages won't really care, but Bleed mages will.
Defensive Action Recovery** (Human) Its a great 'get out of jail free' card to try to shake off some nasty status effects, and you can get your bonus standard action at the same time. Of course, requiring an action point reduces the frequency, but the real problem is that saving your action point until you need to make some saves quick is going to conflict with other AP uses - leading to situations when you'd love to use this feat, but you've already spent your AP for the combat.
Armor Specialization (Hide)* Requiring 15 Con limits it quite a bit, and Hide proficiency was already questionable. And its just another +1 AC, except its a feat bonus... I'd pass.
Back to the Wall*(*) A +1 untyped to AC? All you have to do is stand next to walls - reasonably common in dungeon crawls, and easy to ensure when virtually everything you're doing is ranged attacks. However, that also means you won't really take advantage of the +1 to attack/damage for melee attacks, but the feat is still conceivably worthwhile for a wizard just for the AC bonus.
Combat Anticipation** Pretty decent, especially if you don't plan on getting any other feats with feat bonuses to defenses. As many mages will consider at least Lightning Reflexes and Great Fortitude, they will pass on this feat.
Dwarven Durability** (Dwarf) Given that dwarves already second wind as a minor action, this is pretty sweet.
Evasion** If you're a blast mage, you might take this. Its not particularly useful, but its better than a lot of feats. Control Mages won't care to get the dex to qualify.
Feywild Protection*** (Eladrin) An incredible bonus when it kicks in. Probably the best defensive feat at this tier.
Great Fortitude** Many wizards will take this to shore up their fortitude defense. A good investment.
Improved Second Wind* Much worse than just having a cleric in your party.
Iron Will* Almost rates **, but Wizards are going to tend towards a good will defense without it, making it much less tempting than Great Fortitude or Lightning Reflexes. Given the lack of useful epic tier feats, many wizards may eventually grab it.
Lightning Reflexes** As Great Fortitude for Reflex.
Mettle** Better than evasion overall, and a reasonably good defense because you are likely to get missed by will attacks and reflex attacks.
Second Implement** A wizard may choose to pick up Staves as a second implement for defensive purposes (especially for after they've used their primary implement power for the encounter).
Solid Sound** Probably of slightly more use to control mages, a +2 to defense that you can choose the type based on your foe can be quite useful.
Uncanny Dodge*** Never giving away +2 to hit from Combat Advantage is truly awesome. If you took Alertness, upgrade it to this ASAP. The wisdom prereq may stop some blast mages from pursuing this, but all control mages can hop right in.
Utility Fleet Footed* For a wizard, fairly meh. Unless you routinely can run-n-gun against enemies. Hope your DM has a big battle mat.
Epic Tier Offensive Epic Resurgence** Hope you roll a lot of criticals. Its probably best for bleed mages who have no at-will options available in their style, but do have one encounter power, so they tend to burn through their schtick rather fast.
Font of Radiance* It sounds really good, but there's a severe limit of radiance damage powers available. Possibly combos well with timestop abuse given careful spell selection.
Irresistible Flame*** Essential to any fire-wielding blast mage. Don't leave home without it.
Spell Accuracy*** Virtually every control mage will take this feat. Some blast mages will also, it probably rates ** for them, but they may or may not have the wisdom to use it well.
Defensive Blind Fight* Making the prereq will usually be easy, but as its only adjacent creatures a wizard isn't going to be especially impressed.
Utility Arcane Mastery*** (Wizard) Getting back a daily to use again, quite good. Every wizard will take this.
Skills As a wizard, Arcana is foisted upon you and you have the choice of three of the following skills: Diplomacy (Cha), Dungeoneering (Wis), History (Int), Insight (Wis), Nature (Wis), Religion (Int).
Your good attributes are intelligence and either wisdom or dexterity. As you have no dexterity skills, blast mages are at a disadvantage at skill selection (but they also don't need to dedicate as many of their points to dexterity as control mages want to spend on wisdom, so its not that big of a disadvantage, and they are likely to have a decent wisdom score as their will defense stat). Some blast mages will have a high Charisma. Basically, play to your strengths and let other party members cover your weaknesses.
Given the rate at which skill check DCs are expected to scale, training will not make up for a poor attribute - you'll be better off investing in skills for which you have good attributes. Thus, the intelligence skills are good investments, and the wisdom skills are similarly likely to be good investments (especially for control mages). Some blast mages and multi-class builds may find diplomacy worthwhile.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you'll be able to key powers off weak defenses to maximize to-hit chances, but only if you know what those weak defenses are. At which point, knowledge skills are incredibly useful to you, possibly allowing you to net 10-20% or more improved chances to hit by being able to attack the right defense. The critical knowledge skills are Arcana, Dungeoneering, Nature, Religion, which comprises a good basic skill set. Swapping one for History or Insight is plausible, especially if another party member has a knowledge covered. (Especially for blast mages if a high-wis character has Dungeoneering already).
As a human, snagging Insight as your 5th skill is probably your best pick, although History can compete depending on character concept. (Or you can potentially grab both if one of the knowledges is covered by someone else).
Magic Items Some items are leaps and bounds better than others. Here's a review of what's hot and what's not for the wizard.
This section will use the *-*** scale.
Implements Something quite curious about implements is that they can be wielded one-handed, and thus you can carry use two of them pretty easily. The advantage here is that two types of implements - the staff and the orb - have no effect on your attack as you make it, so you can continue to benefit from its effects without it being magical. Wands of course will need to be the enhancement contributing implement for any attack made with Wand of Accuracy, meaning wand mages won't have the incentive for carrying two implements, or at least less of one barring taking the second implement feat. You don't need the feat to use an implement as an implement for casting though, meaning orb wizards may use a magic staff or wand for all their attacking needs.
Orbs Orbs have some useful powers for a control wizard, and sometimes they're just what is needed for a blast wizard.
Magic Orb** Best bonus: cost ratio, nothing to complain about.
Orb of Drastic Resolutions*** A quality orb which will let you spit out a status effect 1/day when another enemy dies near you. Useful, especially since its a save ends condition.
Orb of Indisputable Gravity* It may be useful, but as a daily power its not going to keep a creature grounded on its own. This is no replacement for flight.
Orb of Inevitable Continuance*** Lets you extend any of the non-save conditions, rather than just at-wills, and without even using up your Orb of Imposition ability. Really good, but you'd rather have the drastic resolutions orb.
Orb of Invasive Fortune** Better for a blast mage than a control mage, but not by much. Retrieving an encounter power 1/day is useful, but not amazing.
Orb of Reversed Polarities*** Blast Mages, Bleed Mages, and Masters of Space will want one of these. Masters of Puppets may not care unless they snagged a lot of cold spells.
Orb of Sanguinary Repercussions* Its a daily damage dealer, but its not much damage, and it requires the creatures be bloodied so it isn't even a minion killer. Mostly useless.
Staves Yes, the plural of staff is staves. Staffs just makes the responsible writer look illiterate.
Magic Staff** Nothing wrong with the basics.
Staff of Fiery Might* A tiefling blast mage would be ok with this, but wouldn't find it too hard to find a replacement. If the power was an encounter power it would be useful.
Staff of Power*** Given the number of AoE effects a wizard has, scoring a critical hit could be a frequent occurrence. I tentatively consider this among the best implements available.
Staff of Storms* Like the staff of fiery might, except its the rarer blast mage who will find it useful.
Staff of War Mages** Situationally quite useful for any wizard, but Masters of Space may find it of greater value than others.
Staff of Winter*** An AoE immobilize effect after using a cold power - great for escaping in a pinch or holding a horde of melee monsters.
Thunderwave Staff** Potentially quite useful as both a control improver and a damage multiplier.
Wands That they generally carry a spell effect in them makes them somewhat less interesting. Of course, its also an additional daily option. Less synergy, more versatility, basically. Wand-focused wizards will want a wand because of Wand of Accuracy, but at high levels they'll probably just want a basic Magic Wand. There really need to be scaling spell effects - ie, rather than Wand of Fireburst, have Wand of Fire that progresses up from Fire Burst to something someone might almost care about at 30th level like Combust or Meteor Swarm or something.
Magic Wand*** It isn't really better than the other basic implements, except there are no good high-level wands other than this.
Wand of Eldritch Rain* Its not an intelligence-based power, so any attack the wizard makes will be next to useless. pass.
Wand of Fiery Bolt* Ditto.
Wand of Fireburst** Good at low levels for blast mages - another fireburst can always come in handy. At high levels the power will be long off your spell list, and possibly not worth using much of the time.
Wand of Icy Rays* A control mage power in a blast mage implement... and not an especially good control power. May see some use, but no one's going to get excited over it.
Wand of Ray of Enfeeblement* Similar to the previous wand.
Wand of Shield** Any wizard can appreciate an extra use of shield.
Wand of Soulflaying* Not an intelligence power - useless.
Wand of Witchfire* Ditto.
Armor -Bloodcut Armor** -Bloodthread Armor*, Not that exciting of a bonus, and you're wearing cloth you silly person. Take Leather Armor proficiency already. -Darkleaf Armor* -Deathcut Armor* -Delver's Armor** -Elven Battle Armor***, If the PHB is anything to judge by, there are a lot of immobilizing effects, not to mention slow effects. The +2 bonus to speed 1/day is just gravy. -Fireburst Armor* -Ghostphase Armor*** -Magic Armor** -Mantle of the Seventh Wind*, Its cloth, but it has a fly speed... except you have to land each turn. Might be worth **, if its lucky, or you have to fly over walls a lot. -Shadowflow Armor*** -Sunleaf Armor* -Sylvan Armor**
Arm Slot (Bracers and Shields) Most wizards will not have the 13 str to carry a shield with proficiency, so I'll be ignoring those options unless something so awesome jumps out at us that you'd carry it despite lacking proficiency. Items the average wizard will clearly avoid will likewise be ignored.
-Bracer's of Defense** -Bracer's of the Perfect Shot*, It would rate better, but it only works with MM, something that won't be especially common outside human wizards. -Shield of Deflection**, Three asterices if you have shield proficiency.
Feet Slot (Boots) As per usual, items the average mage will disregard so shall I.
-Acrobat Boots** -Boots of Balance* -Boots of the Infinite Stride**, +1 speed is amazing for a ranged character, and you get a daily teleport. Top notch. Except you'd probably just prefer Boots of Striding for a fraction of the cost. -Boots of Spider Climb** -Boots of Striding***, +1 speed, cheap! -Boots of Striding and Springing**, An improvement over the Boots of Striding, but not one you'll necessarily care about. If cost is a problem, you'll stay with your old ones. -Catstep Boots*(*) -Dwarven Greaves** -Eladrin Boots***, A teleport and a teleport booster. Useful. -Elven Boots***, +2 speed when you need it as an encounter power. I'm sold. -Wavestrider Boots*, This is the type of thing that will go into your backpack until the DM goes 'we should have a pirate adventure'. -Winged Boots*, One round of flight all day? Boo.
Hand Slot (Gloves and Gauntlets) We'll again skip the obvious.
-Gauntlets of the Ram**, For any mage who likes to push people around. -Gauntlets of Piercing***, If you're a blast mage, you probably can't live without them. (At least until you get Irresistible Flame). -Guildmaster's Gloves* -Shadowfell Gloves**, Useful for anyone who cares about their damage type being Necrotic. It comes up occasionally (most usually for a Master of Time or Master of Space).
Head Slot Items (Hats, Helms, Crowns, and Ioun Stones) The usual disclaimer
-Basilisk Helm*** -Circlet of Authority/Crown of Command** -Diadem of Acuity/Helm of the Eagle/Phoenix Helm/Ioun Stone of True Sight***, In order of increasing quality - any of these is worth having, and probably your top choice. Ioun Stone of True Sight is almost certainly what you want to end the game with. -Helm of Fallen Heroes***, A great defensive ability that also is a control ability, and it gives a large bonus to quite a few skill checks, two of which you may well care about. Nice. -Helm of Battle**, You want someone in the party to wear one... -Helm of Ghostly Defense***, Decent defensive ability, and its an encounter power which makes it quite nice. -Helm of Heroes*, This is for your party warlord, let him have it. -Iron of Spite**, You'll probably keep one in your pocket for when you need that +6 arcana, but its hugely overpriced for what else it does.
Neck Slot Items (Capes and Amulets) -Amulet of False Life*, Its an extra healing surge basically. Yeah, I didn't get very excited either. -Amulet of Health** -Amulet of Protection** -Cloak of Feywild Escape** -Cloak of Invisibility***, Its invisibility that lets you attack and stay invisible. Best item ever. -Cloak of Resistance** -Cloak of Survival*** -Elven Cloak**, Sneaky, and always 'on'. -Guardian's Cape*, It'd be far more useful for the party defender - you'll just be asking to get beat up after you teleport someone else into harm's way. -Periapt of Wisdom** -Safewing Amulet* -Scarab of Invulnerability**, Its good, but it would be better for someone else in the party. -Stormwalker's Cloak*
Rings Remember, you can wear two. That rings gain benefits when you've reached a milestone makes them possibly more worthwhile than many other item types.
-Iron Ring of the Dwarf Lords** -Ring of Flight* -Ring of Freedom of Movement** -Ring of Invisibility** -Ring of Protection** -Ring of Regeneration***, If you've reached a milestone, its rather amazing. Especially as regeneration 10 for a wizard probably means anything but a dedicated assault against you is unlikely to do much long-term damage. -Ring of True Seeing**, Its a (albeit temporary) defense against invisible monsters. Useful. -Ring of Wizardry*** -Star Opal Ring***, Speed +1 and a teleport - too bad the milestone bonus attack is charisma-based.
Waist Slot Items Lots of belts you won't care about.
-Belt of Vigor* -Dynamic Belt** -Ironskin Belt**
-Bag of Holding/Handy Haversack/Portable Hole** Carrying more stuff can be useful.
Sadly, Portable Hole has lost a lot of its coolness value as you can no longer carry creatures inside it nor is it large enough to have a (small) portable room in it. The last change annoys me the most, because the balance implications of that were non-existent. Portable Holes are now glorified large bags of holding that are hard to get into - boo.
-Dimensional Shackles*, Entertaining and useful, but you don't want to be the one using them. -Dust of Appearance***, Invisibility defense and its now reuseable freely. Top marks. -Everlasting Provisions*, For if your DM actually makes you record every last gram of food you eat. Blech. -Feather Boat*, Portable boats are cool. Boats that travel at a constant speed irrespective of current strength and direction and mind-bogglingly stupid. Seriously. -Flying Carpet**, Its a sustainable flight option (finally). However, its no party transport device - only one person can ride it at a time. Hope you weren't planning on carrying the princess you rescued back to her father on it. -Keoghtom's Ointment**, Strikes me as mildly expensive, but at high levels you'll literally have buckets of this stuff. -Revenant Ankh***, It gets 3 *s just for being amazingly cool. Kind of gruesome too. Now where's that Necromancer class for the full package... Oh yeah, and should it come up it'll be quite useful. -Ritual Candle***, For its cost the only question you should ask yourself is "Why Not?"... or perhaps "Why the heck am I burning money on rituals?" If you are, you'll want one. -Rope of Climbing** -Sending Stones***, Re: walkie talkies. Your entire party will have a linked set by paragon.