[ Disclaimer, --- , ]
The Intrepid Wizard's Guide
Playing a Wizard is for the intrepid EQ player, especially as a first character. They are a nearly unique class in that they are basically a pure burst DPS output machine in groups or a raid (the Rogue being the melee equivalent). They lack mutual support functionality that you find in most all of the other casting classes other than a few minor buffs and the ability to evacuate and teleport people around. They are useful in a group if played properly, however they can be a liability for a group if played poorly. Because the Wizard is primarily a DPS output machine, they can very easily get carried away with nuking in the fast paced group, either nuking too much, too early, the wrong mobs, or all of the above. Rapid DPS also means rapid aggro, and while groups appreciate fast kills, they aren't going to love always pulling mobs off of you, or worse, chasing you down so that they can pull a mob off of you.
Outside of a group, Wizards generally need three things to successfully solo: Spirit of the Wolf, mana, and snare/root. Wizards get root early, but they don't get a snare until level 29 and it is a fairly short duration area of effect snare. Wizards don't have any kind of crowd control abilities outside of root or snare, so in the early levels soloing more than one mob at a time is a risky venture. In later levels (51+) Wizards can quad-kite very successfully. In mid-levels, quad-kiting can be achieved depending on the mob, but it will rarely prove worth the time and trouble. Above all, mana management and having SoW are critical to staying alive and soloing successfully.
Wizards, along with Enchanters, are a class that are virtually a requirement for point blank area of effect groups (PBAoE). A PBAoE group is most successful with 2 Wizards, 2 Enchanters, a Cleric and a tank. Other classes may technically be able to participate, but the most successful groups are as previously stated. PBAoE groups rely on very specific abilities that Enchanters and Wizards are able to employ: Point blank attacks against an unlimited number of enemies.
Wizard Stats and Starting Race
Note that what is stated below is really for a non-twink to consider! Twinks can virtually ignore stats altogether, if given enough starting gear.
Intelligence is 95% of what makes a Wizard possible and as far as play-ability goes, it is virtually the only stat that matters when in a group of any kind. While solo, especially in the early levels, things are a bit different. Intelligence is still the most important stat, but totally ignoring Strength, Stamina, and Agility can mean the difference between surviving a bad situation and ending up dead. Most guides would probably tell you to create an Erudite and put 25 points in Intelligence and 5 points in Strength or Stamina. Well, that will work for the most part, but unless you are twinked in the early levels, you will be frequently overloaded on weight and extra squishy when being hit. Because Erudites start with such high Intelligence, they can actually get away with not putting anything in Intelligence and do quite well. The same cannot be said for Humans and High Elves. Based on experience playing a Human Wizard in the Velious Era, a starting Intelligence of 125 is plenty, especially if you have any Intelligence gear early on. Left-over points (regardless of race) can be spent to round out the stats. Note that an Erudite can start with 127 INT, 75 AGI, 75 STR and effectively start with Human-like rounded stats, yet achieve a much higher starting INT than is possible as a Human (which is 110). Gnomes can do quite well with 125 INT, and 73 STR. The Races that really suffer stat-wise are the High Elf and the Dark Elf. Both have High WIS, which is useless. High Elves have high CHA and Dark Elves have a bit too much AGI. Both have very low STR, which can be a problem unless you are starting out with a bunch of weight reduction bags or STR gear.
So an Erudite is almost certainly the best way to go and you can dump 25 points into INT, 5 into STR or AGI and do very well. It's probably a good idea to round out the stats a bit if you are starting out with no gear due to the survivability and weight carrying issues. An Erudite with no gear and 25 points put into INT is a true glass cannon. Keep in mind that the soft cap on INT is 200 and anything higher will not net you very much mana.
Pick Solusek Ro or go Agnostic. It is as simple as that. Solusek Ro offers the advantage of the Imbued Platinum Fire Ring, which should be Wizard only, but strangely, Bard followers of Solusek Ro can also wear them. This is a great crafted ring that is not too hard or expensive to have made. Its only downside is the -8 STR, which isn't a problem at all if you rounded your starting stats by boosting up STR.
The Early Levels
Your best bet playing the early levels on Project 99 is to get yourself to Freeport (or Neriak) so that you can play in East Commons and beg for buffs in the East Commons Tunnel, your main desire being Spirit of the Wolf and Clarity. Get used to asking for these; in fact you should create several hot bar buttons:
- /who druid
- /who shaman
- /who enchanter
- /tt %t Hi %t, can I get a Clarity?
- /tt %t Hi %t, can I get a SOW?
- /tt %t Thanks %t!
Always find the player before asking and target them before pressing the /tt buttons. The idea here is to make it as easy on them as possible, they will likely /rtarget and cast the spell. They probably get asked so much that they have their own buttons setup for this.
With these buffs, you will be able to solo your way up to level 7-8 and beyond with relative ease. Soloing is mainly a matter of kiting slower moving mobs like beetles or rooting and nuking. With clarity, your mana will regenerate fast enough that you will have little downtime. After getting some levels under your belt and the mobs begin to not die so easily, you will notice that your direct damage (DD) spells don’t scale up so well.
Damage Spells and Wizard Math
On the surface it seems like playing a Wizard is all about damage output, but the heart of playing a Wizard is managing mana, aggro, and understanding mana to damage ratios of your spells. Some quick calculations on early level Direct Damage (DD) spells show that spell damage versus the mana expended is pretty lopsided in favor of burning up mana for little damage output. In the early levels, this isn’t a big deal because you start out with enough INT that it takes many casts to run yourself out. But without Clarity and Meditation, you will notice how fast the mana goes and the long downtime between fights in only a few dings past level 3 or 4.
Generally speaking, your Shock line of cold and fire based spells will provide the best single target damage to mana ratios and will be a Wizard’s staple while solo or in a group for many levels. They are also usually the fastest to cast and recover from to recast. Magic and Lightning are usually not quite as efficient. The damage to mana ratios for these spells improves dramatically in the higher levels. This is basically true of all damage spells with a few exceptions. There is also a "bolt" line of semi-direct damage spells. These have a longer range than your DD spells, and the damage is decent. These are good for pulling, however, they can miss if the mob is moving and the bolt projectile hits an object or terrain. The bolt spells become less and less useful over time.
You will have access to several targeted AoE spells as you level; the "Column" and "Spiral" line of spells. Some of these spells have decent damage to mana ratios, but are practically worthless in the early to middle levels for two reasons. First of all, you don’t have any snare capability until level 29 and even with SoW, you can’t cast these spells far enough away from a group of mobs before they will catch up to you. Second, even if you did have a snare, they don’t produce quite enough damage, and you would find yourself shy of finishing off mobs that were worth quad-kiting (unless you are totally twinked out). There are a few exceptions at various levels in the 30s and 40s; that is, mobs that are relatively weak and con blue making it worth while to Quad-Kite. At level 51 this difficulty suddenly changes to no problem at all and Quad-Kiting can be how you will level all the way up to 60.
You will also come across various "rain" spells which affect up to four targets. The idea behind these spells is to spread the damage over three waves (a poor man’s DoT), however if 4 mobs are in the area of effect all of the damage is produced in the first wave. These are to be avoided in the early levels as the damage to mana ratios make them worthless (there was a time in EQ live where Icestrike was the single best mana to damage ratio spell in the game, but this is not the case in Project 99). Post level 51, there are many situations where these spells become valuable, albeit situational. In some raid and group situations, you won’t want to use these for fear of waking up mezzed mobs or in dungeons where vertical aggro can result from casting a rain spell.
Another line of combat spells worth mentioning are the stuns. Many of these produce little or no damage, but if timed correctly, you can stop casters and help out tanks that are falling too quickly in HP. Usually you only have these ready for use in a group and when you know you will be facing NPC casters.
Leveling Through the Muddled Middle
Leveling from 15 to 29 is rather painful. It’s slow, there aren't much turn-in quests that are easy any more. It’s easiest in groups that are well lead, with a mix of classes that can blow through the kills, but it is slow. There really isn’t a magic bullet or secret to getting through these levels aside from help from a power-leveler. Buffs help. You can solo a bit. You can quest. But all of the guides in the world can’t get you past the inability to snare. Without snare you will find kiting to be mostly impossible. Root + nuke will fail quite a bit due to root breaking early. Soloing in these levels is always risky unless you have access to SoW and Clarity on a regular basis. Your best bets are to get in indoor groups where there is a good experience bonus when ever possible.
At level 29 you get Bonds of Force and Inferno Shock (close to 2:1 damage to mana ratio). Suddenly Hill Giants aren’t big deal to solo. Suddenly almost anything around your level isn’t a big worry anymore. Although Bonds of Force affects up to 4 mobs, most Wizards can’t quite quad successfully yet. Bonds of Force isn’t a cheap cast in terms of mana cost and getting it to stick on 4 mobs without a resist is troublsome at this point. It also doesn't have a long duration. Then you have to kill all 4 of them and your available quadding damage spells don’t put out enough damage for the amount of mana you have to expend. So your prospects for soloing get better, but leveling is still rather slow up to level 51.
The Kunark Spells - Game Changer
At level 51 you get access to your first two game changing spells; Atol's Spectral Shackles (a better version of Bonds of Force) and Pillar of Frost. The power of Pillar of Frost is hard to understate. You go from single target damage to mana ratios of 2-2.5:1 to 2.5:1 on four targets. No previous quad damage spells to this point has come close to this kind of ratio. You also start getting access to a "Draught" line of direct damage spells which are single target DD spells with greater than 3:1 damage to mana ratios. These spells will become your standard single target spells in a typical group or raid.
At 52 you get a very useful "Rain", Tears of Druzzil. As stated previously, rains deal out damage in three waves on up to four mobs with a total strike of four hits. So in a group or raid where only one mob is engaged and there are no concerns about adds, the damage output for the mana expended make this spell very worthwhile. On a single target one potential 'hit' is lost, but the efficiency is so good that it is worth the cast (effectively a 5.5:1 damage to mana ratio if all three waves hit). If you are fighting mobs that resist waves frequently, then these should be avoided.
At 53 you get your first "Jyll's" line of point blank AoE spells. These affect an unlimited number of targets and are useful in two ways. Obviously, PBAoE groups require these spells (and you actually need two so that you can chain cast them). Additionally, you can use these to kill large numbers of weak mobs, for example a bunch of level level 20 mobs. This is a way to farm components, like silks from giant spiders. These spells are fast casting and mana efficient. There is a Level 60 PBAoE spell called Winds of Gelid that does up to 1260 damage per mob, but costs 1000 mana. It's virtually worthless. You could cast Jyll's Wave of Heat about three times and do more damage for the same mana expended. Winds of Gelid also has a long cast time, making it even less attractive.
At 55 you get your first "Lure" line of spells. These are situational, as the damage to mana ratios aren't as good as your Draught line. What they do provide is a much better chance of landing on mobs that resist a lot. Some NPCs will resist even with all kinds of debuffs on them, but these spells will almost always land.
Wizards get a fair number of worthless spells as they level up. These spells can be safely skipped and never acquired:
- Numbing Cold
- Sphere of Light
- Fingers of Fire
- Sense Summoned
- True North
- Frost Spiral of Al'Kabor
- Heat Sight
- Fire Spiral of Al'Kabor
- Cast Force
- Lightning Storm
- Imbue Fire Opal (Unless you follow Solusek Ro)
- Shock Spiral of Al'Kabor
- Force Spiral of Al'Kabor
- Frost Storm
- Wrath of Al'Kabor
- Inferno of Al'Kabor
- Retribution of Al'Kabor
- Vengeance of Al'Kabor
You will notice here that Al'Kabor is pretty much hated; every spell he created is worthless. There was a time when this was not true, but that was in the early days of EQ live before the entire line was nerfed into oblivion. The spell line might as well have been removed from the game because they are utterly useless.
There are also a few spell lines of questionable value such as the entire line of Shadow Step type spells. These are as likely to put you in a worse situation as help you out of a bad situation. Also the vision spells and the summoning spell Halo of Light are mostly useless. Halo of Light is actually interesting because it it the only Conjuration spell a Wizard gets. When Familiars came out in Shadows of Luclin, suddenly this spell was useful as a way to train up Conjuration for the Familiars. The same can be said of a spell like Glimpse, it is a low mana cast method you can use over and over to train up Divination. The O'Keils damage shield spells aren't all that valuable either, but they are one of the few buffs you can cast on other players.
Quad-Kiting and Tools of the Trade
Quad-Kiting is a technique where you round up four of the same speed and preferably the same type/class of mob in to a tight group, then snare them with an AoE snare. To pull this off, you need to be able to kill all of those snared mobs before the snare wears off. Otherwise you will be forced to re-snare all of the mobs and try to finish them off. Where it gets tricky is finding places where this is possible without getting adds, having SoW, and having enough mana to accomplish the feat.
For most players, it is nearly impossible to pull off Quad-Kiting in most of the early levels. The damage to mana ratios just don't support it. As mentioned earlier, at level 51 this situation drastically changes with the "Pillar" line of spells.
Before going any further, it should be mentioned that there are a couple of valuable tools that you should acquire by the time you are level 51. One is the Journeyman's Boots (see Journeyman's Boots Quest). Unless you plan on buying SoW potions on a regular basis or have a druid in your back pocket, you pretty much have to have these. The other tool is the Staff of Temperate Flux. The reason this is needed is that it allows you to aggro mobs from a distance without expending any mana while running. It is also useful as a method of determining the range of the group when you can't see them (they are behind you). One other benefit (you shouldn't ever need) is that you get aggro from almost anyone very quickly. This is an instant cast item, so if another player accidentally grabs aggro from one of your mobs, you can get it back rapidly, by casting the Flux staff 10 or 20 times in a row. Even a mobs that have been brought to 50% health by a taunting Warrior can be pulled off with enough casts of the Flux staff. It is far more powerful than the weak debuff would suggest.
The steps to a successful quad kill are as follows:
- 1) Get SoW or cast Jboots (and levitate, if appropriate)
- 2) Use the Flux staff to grab four mobs of the same speed/type
- 3) Run them into an area where you will not get adds
- 4) Run them in circles until they are in a tight grouping
- 5) Run straight out of range
- 6) Cast your AoE Snare
- 7) If one or more resist the snare, snare them separately
- 8) If the mobs were not all snared at the same time, re-snare until they are (no resists!)
- 9) Begin casting your most efficient quad damage spells and continue until they are all dead or only one mob is left
- 10) Finish off any stragglers
Depending on your mana pool, resists, and whether or not you have clarity, this can be easy, barely do-able, or you will end up just shy of killing the mobs. Resists in particular can be maddening because that means wasted mana that you might not be able to afford. Always have an Evac to the zone safe point up and what ever you do, don't kite the mobs around the safe point! Better to Evac then take risks on a bad situation. Some areas you Quad-Kite in will be remote, far away from any help.
You can perfect your skills by practicing on low level mobs without much risk, but keep in mind that higher level mobs will resist, and the resists can really complicate the situation. Keep a timer for the snare, it is very helpful to know just ahead of time when the snare is about to break. Keep a root memorized, you might find yourself sitting and trying to recover enough mana to finish off a mob that just kept resisting. You might even root and risk a Harvest, if you are particularly bold.
Point Blank AoE Groups
After Planes of Power came out, most players abandoned PBAoE and it became a lost art. PBAoE Groups rely on the Enchanter's 'Color' line of PBAoE stuns that are fast casting and affect mobs of levels into the 50's and Wizard's mana efficient 'Jyll's' line of PBAoE damage spells. In the Kunark/Velious era PBAoE is probably the fastest way that any group of players can level.
The Wizard's job is painfully simple; chain cast the Jyll's spells when the tank is finished pulling until out of mana, cast Harvest if necessary, and chain cast again until out of mana. If all goes well, the tank in the group and possibly even the Cleric will finish off stragglers before the Enchanters run out of mana chain casting their stuns. Epic numbers of mobs can be killed in this manner on a single pull.
A good PBAoE group will consist of 2 Enchanters, 2 Wizards, 1 tank and a Cleric. There are other possible variations, but deviations from the above are weaker and riskier. Your mileage may vary.
The 10 Wizard Commandments (or How to Not Suck as a Group Member)
- Thou shall not blast a mob the tank has just started fighting
- Thou shall not over-nuke
- Thou shall not Rain/AE when adds are in camp or even possible
- Thou shall not run when a mob aggros on thee
- Thou shall assist the main tank and not manually target
- Thou shall inform the group regularly of thy mana level
- Thou shall not expend mana killing fleeing mobs unnecessarily
- Thou shall announce Harvest
- Thou shall root when a mob has aggroed on the wrong player
- Thou shall stun casters when possible
Groups and Tools of the Trade
For the most part, grouping and fighting as a Wizard is pretty uneventful and rather than make or break a group, you add to the speed at which a group can kill off mobs. As you level up, things get a little more complex as you will need to be keenly aware of what amount of aggro you are producing. For example if you are a chain casting DDs, throw in a Rain, and a stun, you may find the mobs suddenly ignoring everyone else and coming straight at you. Most groups aren't surprised to see this once in a while, but if it is a regular occurrence, you are at fault. First of all, don't panic and start running around. You aren't going to get the mob off of you by doing that. If you have root up and the target can be rooted, then try to root it and if successful, back off slowly. The tank will usually be able to pick it back up.
There is a quested Level 39 spell called Concussion (also known as the Brain Bite (Good) or Brain Bite (Evil) quest). This spell is a hate reducer and there will come a time when you absolutely need it to be in your spell line up. When you mix in casting Concussion with damage spells, you will find that you can over-nuke and get away with it. It doesn't make you invulnerable to getting aggro, but it makes a huge difference in long fights. There is nothing worse than being in a raid as a Wizard and getting aggro from a powerful mob like a dragon; Concussion can prevent that from happening. There was a debate, at one point in time on EQ live, whether a resisted Concussion still reduced hate or not. It was eventually demonstrated in a video that indeed, a resisted Concussion hit still reduced the Wizard's hate level on the target.
If you find that you are getting aggro all of the time, don't blame the tank; start nuking less, even if you have to resort to using lower level spells. Try timing your nukes to take a mob from 50% to fleeing instead of 90% to fleeing. Most groups don't need a Wizard for any particular reason, if you become a liability, you are expendable. Keep a low profile...
Sometimes you will be in a group with a puller that is inexperienced. An inexperienced puller thinks its a good idea to pull the mob all of the way into the middle of the group. In reality, the best place to pull a mob is to the melee classes, but distant from all of the casters. You might have to explain this if you run into someone that is fond of pulling mobs right into your melee range. Try distancing yourself from the bulk of group if this becomes a problem, but you definitely want to stay out of melee range.
Stating the Obvious
A few things to remember:
When the time comes to specialize your casting skills, obviously, you make sure it is Evocation that goes over 235. It is nearly impossible to not specialize in Evocation as a Wizard, but just in case, you read it here.
Always keep your Evocation skill (and really all casting skills with the possible exception of Conjuration) maxed out. Fizzles burn up mana you don't want to lose in a tight situation, and multiple fizzles are really bad news.
Keep your weight under your limit, nothing is worse than needing to get away and being slowed down just enough to get caught and killed.
If you can acquire gear that trades off AC or other stats but increases your mana pool, do it unless it will put a burden on you that you can't handle (like going from 60 STR to 52 STR, bleh).