Playing a Sorcerer
The Sorcerer is the second arcane striker, after Warlock from PHB. Like all arcane characters the Sorcerer has an emphasis on control secondary, but unlike the Warlock it does not stray from its striker role in order to control. Sorcerers are on the whole one of the most fragile classes, but they make up for it by causing lots of damage to many creatures all at once. For a ranged, cloth armor wearing character Sorcerers are extremely aggressive, and not just due to their striker role. Currently, pure builds tend to perform very well during Heroic, comparatively mediocre during Paragon and Epic.
How a Sorcerer fares in the areas associated with being a striker:
Burst/Nova/Spike Damage – A complete lack of minor action attacks and multi-attacks to a single target, means a Sorcerer nova pales in comparison to a Ranger or Rogue. The level 1 daily, Dazzling Ray, is spectacular at single-target damage at the lowest levels but continues to outshine higher-level choices, so Sorcerers seem difficult to improve after a precocious start. Still, Sorcerers do the striker job to lay down the hurt. Unlike the striker role, Sorcerers spread a lot of damage across many targets, but cant focus all of that power onto one creature.
Damage Per Round (DPR) – Since your striker damage bonus is built into your powers, and requires no effort on your part to get, you’re dealing good damage every hit. A Sorcerer can spend every round of combat dazed, and still perform its function perfectly well. Not needing to spend a minor action to trigger your damage is a huge boon.
Targeting Capacity – The job of a Striker is to neutralize any special threat, so targeting is a must. Because your damage bonus goes against whoever you hit, you don’t suffer for lack of setup for attacking the enemy leader behind the brutes. Your distant powers (ranged and area) are plentiful for any remote targets. Additionally, the large number of bursts and blasts means you can get more targets and can ignore nuisances like blind, concealment, and stealth. Note, Sorcerers suffer from the same lack of magic item support that all non-martial-melee suffers. Moreover, a decision to split the primary attack ability between CHA and DEX makes the lower attack modifier suffer noticeably in hitting accuracy, while the lack of items and difficulty of combat advantage makes it difficult to compensate.
Specifically, the Storm Sorcerer excels as an Artillery (Ranged Striker). Moderate hit points and armorless AC can make any Sorcerer a glass canon that is shy about melee combat. Yet the Storm Sorcerer also has exceptionally effective powers that can attack at long distances and cover wide areas. Meanwhile the high mobility can ensconce from any melee situation and escape them if they happen. The Storm Soul in combination with other triggered defenses can neutralize occasional ranged attacks that do happen. Meanwhile the moderate toughness and high DEX are adequate to survive lucky hits. If your allies are competent at melee tactics, it is possible for you to dump melee to maximize your distant attacks. Even then your Staff Expertise or Shimmering cloth armor prevents ALL of your magical attacks from provoking Opportunity Attacks anyway, if you ever do go melee.
Debilitating Effects – Because controller is your secondary role, your powers have pretty good status effects, and you don’t have to give up damage to pick them up.
Survivability – Sorcerers are glass cannons. They have mediocre hit points and surges, bad armor proficiencies, and the only great defense is the one least attacked. That said, it is possible to build good AC without armor because of high DEX (or even STR features) and feats like Unarmored Agility. Sorcerers also get some very good defensive utilities, but taking these means sacrificing the offensive utilities that strikers require.
Secondary Role Effectiveness
- Controller – This is your secondary role. You can easily target large numbers of enemies at once, have lots of ways to cause auto-damage, decent status effects, and many Sorcerer powers have built in controller riders.
- Defender – There are highly specialized melee builds of Sorcerers with absolutely ridiculous AC, but that just makes them hard to hit, not tanks, and certainly not defenders.
- Leader – Hah! Don’t even try. You blow up the world, and this sometimes includes your allies.
HP, Surges, and Proficiencies
- Hit Points – 12 to start and 5 per level is standard for a striker. You’re tougher than a wizard, but you sure aren’t up there with barbarians.
- Surges – 6+ CON mod is, once again, standard for a striker.
- Proficiencies – Aweful weapon proficiencies, and nothing but cloth armor with no class based bonus to AC in cloth armor. However the staff and dagger as implements are win. A melee build can multiclass to optimize the dagger as both implement and weapon. An artillery build can optimize the Staff of Ruin with Essential Staff Expertise.
SkillsYou get a total of 4 skills, which is normal. Some few classes get really screwed and only get 3, but most get 4 or more.
- Arcana – You don’t have a choice for this one. Unfortunately, INT is a possible dump stat so you’ll never be good at Arcana without some serious work.
- "blue">Athletics – A good skill to have, and Cosmic and Dragon Sorcerers have the STR to be good at it. Since you aren’t likely to have armor penalties, you might even have a higher Athletics score than your Fighter or Barbarian buddy. Unfortunately, Chaos Sorcerers and Storm Sorcerers tend to dump STR and perform poorly. Note, the Level 2 utility power, Sorcerous Siracco, grants fly for a standard action per encounter (for you and one ally), which can obviate Athletics checks for most situations that require a jump or climb. Still, other utilities are also appealing, so the skill is worth having.
- Bluff – A great choice for certain builds. Bluff is one of the rarer skills, and you have the CHA to master it, so train in it if you don’t want your party to miss out on this skill.
- Diplomacy – A highly useful skill, and the Sorcerer CHA will be among the best at it. Still teammates may also have this skill, so there is less need to train in it.
- Dungeoneering – Since you receive Arcana training automatic, WIS is probably your dump stat. Unless you hybrid a WIS based class, you will never have a reason to be good enough at Dungeoneering to get the monster knowledge checks more than once in a blue moon.
- Endurance – Since CON is always useful, training in Endurance is a situational but not useless choice. But you have no reason to be good at Endurance. Train in something more useful.
- History – INT might not be your dump stat, but you won’t be good at this skill. If no one in your party has access to History, you might consider training in it.
- Insight – See Dungeoneering. But this is even less useful.
- Intimidate – Depending on build and playstyle, this skill is excellent or even must-have, especially with a Drow racial bonus. Look into the 'intimidatomancer' for extreme specialization. Your CHA is win.
- Nature – See Dungeoneering.
- "gray">Acrobatics – Storm and Chaos Sorcerers will have the DEX to succeed at checks. Unfortunately, the skill itself only excels at falling well (catching balance and reducing falling damage), which is highly situational. Only the Athletics skill can do acrobatic jumps. For other uses too, Athletics is equal or strictly better. Acrobatics is worthless for Cosmic Sorcerer and Dragon Sorcerer whose DEX is lacking anyway.
- Heal – Remember the problem with other Dungeoneering?
- Perception – An excellent skill, but you just won’t be good at it.
- Religion – See History.
- "blue">Stealth – A useful skill - highly so depending on build - and the Chaos Sorcerer and Storm Sorcerer will have the DEX to succeed. Nearly a must-have for one of these builds with a Halfling or "turquoise">Drow racial bonus. Less useful for Cosmic and Dragon.
- Streetwise – You have the CHA for it, so it can be a useful substitute for knowledge checks, given your lack of WIS and INT.
- "blue">Thievery – By itself, this is useful for disabling traps and unlocking doors if this becomes your job. Otherwise less helpful in combat. Chaos and Storm will have the DEX, but Cosmic and Dragon wont.
Class Features: Spell Source
As a sorcerer, all of your class features depend on your choice of Spell Source. Each Spell Source gives you a bonus to damage and a damage resistance appropriate to the Source. Strength-based Sources also fix your AC.
- Cosmic Persistance – STR for AC instead of DEX or INT is a beautiful thing. It’s not necessarily better than DEX for AC, but it is very good because this lets you keep up your AC without spreading your stats thin- you get a benefit for no opportunity cost.
- Cosmic Power – Adding your STR mod to the damage rolls of all your powers is pretty good. Also adding that to any arcane powers you pick up from another class, paragon path, or epic destiny is amazing. And you get to do that for all damage rolls- even for your bursts and blasts.
- Soul of the Cosmic Cycle – If you don’t plan on being in melee, don’t play a Cosmic Sorcerer as half of its class features are dependent upon being in melee. The benefits are all good, and though they are more controllable than a Wild Sorcerer they are less controllable than, say, any other class. The weakest thing Cosmic power offers is psychic resistance, because psychic damage is so rare. Variable resistance means you don’t get to focus on one damage type, which is a loss.
- Draconic Power – Adding your STR mod to the damage rolls of all your powers is pretty good. Also adding that to any arcane powers you pick up from another class, arcane paragon path, or arcane epic destiny is amazing. And you get to do that for all damage rolls- even for your bursts and blasts.
- Draconic Resilience – STR for AC instead of DEX or INT is a beautiful thing. It’s not necessarily better than DEX for AC, but it is very good because this lets you keep up your AC without spreading your stats thin- you get a benefit for no opportunity cost.
- Dragon Soul – A solid resistance and the ability to pierce your chosen resistance. You don’t get to chose necrotic resistance, but you get to chose from most of the other common damage types.
- Scales of the Dragon – This is great. It’s untyped, so it stacks with power bonuses granted from your leader or other sources, and it lasts till the end of the encounter rather than until you are no longer bloodied (like most bloodied benefits do). This makes Dragon Sorcerer’s capable of getting some of the best AC in the game. It also means picking up leather/hide armor, or Unarmored Agility, isn’t a top priority for Dragon Sorcerers like it is for other Sorcerers.
- Storm Power – Adding your DEX mod to the damage rolls of all your powers is pretty good. Also adding that to any arcane powers you pick up from another class, paragon path, or epic destiny is amazing. And you get to do that for all damage rolls - especially for your bursts and blasts!
- Storm Soul – Of your fellow Sorcerers, your resistance is the best. It isn’t more than anyone else gets, and it might not come in handy as often as fire resistance, but you get two resistances (which means you pierce two damage types). You alone get the choice to end your resistance to gain a substantial bonus to your defenses for a turn, which is useful for when you don’t encounter any lightning/thunder resistance.
- "purple">Storm’s Embrace – Since you mostly can’t control this effect, it’s just a novelty for your crits. For artillery Storm Sorcerers who avoid melee, the push is worthless. It either pushes remote targets with no consequence or worse: ends the flanking that your melee allies set up. Storms Embrace is unpredictable and too infrequent by far to rely on to force enemies into hindering terrain or to ensconce from melee enemies. Meanwhile you already have powers with forced movement and personal fly when you need to so. Not only that. The fly from Storms Embrace provokes Opportunity Attacks! Thus it is usually worthless if it ever does show up.
- Chaos Burst – Getting a save is a very good effect, and +1 AC is not bad, but this is unreliable and very hard to control. Like the Storm Sorcerer’s Storm’s Embrace, it’s just a nice thing to have for when it does come up, but nothing to plan around.
- Chaos Power – Adding your DEX mod to the damage rolls of all your powers is pretty good. Also adding that to any arcane powers you pick up from another class, paragon path, or epic destiny is amazing. And you get to do that for all damage rolls- even for your bursts and blasts.
- Unfettered Power – The benefit on a crit is pretty nice. What you get on a ‘1’ can be absolutely devastating. It’s not going to come up that often, but sometimes you have a streak of bad luck and can really screw over your allies.
- Wild Soul – You get the same resistance values as other Sorcerers, and the ability to pierce that resistance on monsters, but you don’t get to pick yours, which means you don’t get the benefits from focusing on one damage type.