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Old March 6, 2021, 10:02   #1
Selkie
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Mage review: V 4.2.1

TLDR: Mages are Gods of Angband, if you die beyond CL45 then it's an act of suicide

Just won with a HE mage, I don't think I've ever killed Morgorth quite so effortlessly (it was also easy with my BG using bloodlust but he felt like he had to sweat a bit for it).

I wrote a detailed review of the ranger spell book recently. I don't think it's necessary to break down all of the mage spells so here are some highlights from each spell book and some general thoughts about the class.

First Spells
A fairly balanced mix of spells for the early game. You'll need all the spells to survive to the mid game but it is easier than a necromancer (just because they come unstuck against undead and even large kobolds). It's a shame the mage doesn't get any sort of mapping ability (apart from detecting doors/stairs) but rods of magic mapping are a dime a dozen once you start getting deeper and until you get them you can carry and recharge a stave.
Fire ball is kicking out 100 damage by the end game and still only costs 5MP, so it's pretty good at toasting vampire pits or little forests of huorns. Aside from this you probably won't bother carrying the spellbook at the end.


Attacks and Knowledge

Treasure detection is a classic utility spell and will see use all through the game. Identify is obviously very handy since scrolls of identify rune are relatively rare (until you no longer need them, and then they're everywhere). Frost bolt is a great spell and farming pits of M's is a good way to level up and get rich through your CL 20s and 30s. Recharging is a vital spell, even more so once you have learned the magical tap in the next spell book (free mana baby).

Magical Defences
The last of the town spell books and you're going to have to save up to get it. It seemed funny that I could learn spells from this book earlier than Fire Ball in the first book, but I sort of like this feature and makes the spell books feel less linear.
This is a POWERFUL book, with only one dud spell which is disable traps/destroy doors. Now I'm writing this review I can actually think it would have been quite useful at times but I completely forgot about it during the game and never cast it.
The highlights would have to be teleport other and resistance. TO needs no explanation and having it on a 0 per cent failure rate is very nice. Resistance is key for fighting the scary elemental breathers and makes taking out uniques like Smaug and Itgast the Fire Drake a doddle.
However, without a doubt one of the strongest spells in Angband must be Mana Channel. It's controversial because it is THAT powerful. My end game mage was at +35 speed hasted and had a randart helmet of +2 movement speed, which meant I could escape anything in the dungeon which is great. But running away is all well and good but eventually you're going to have to kill something. Mana storm is a great spell delivering 400 irresistible damage points but with Mana channel that becomes 800 points (down to 700 once you factor in the 13 per cent failure rate). That's a lot of hurt and it's a hurt that doesn't care about your class, creed or colour. So for 10 mana your mage essentially becomes twice as powerful and with no negative effect. It can last up to 10 turns as well, by which time most things are dead. Since there are no negative status effects you can cast it at your leisure. An end game mage heading into the big fights will have plenty of mana potions so there's no need not to use this spell in every scary fight. I predict a nerfing.

Arcane Control
The first dungeon spell book is a must find for any mid level mage to advance to the end game, and that's because of mana bolt. Until you learn mana bolt there are a lot of enemies that are very hard to kill. Mana bolt costs 8MP and deals a max irresistible damage of 320 and it regularly beams. I used it through to the end game, mostly because mana storm destroys treasure on the floor but mana bolt doesn't. There's a point in a mage's life where mana bolt loses its efficacy and until you learn mana storm this is a tricky period.
Thrust away is good for keeping enemies at bay and I used it liberally until I got +2 movement speed, then it became easier just to step myself back rather than pushing the baddies away. It deals 400 damage of force and you won't find many who resist this (Baphomet is the exception that springs to mind).
Dimension door is an incredible spell. I didn't even really utilise it's full potential, I'm sure it's at serious risk of abuse by cheese strats (but I'm not creative enough to invent any). I was amazed that I could warp myself into a locked vault - I didn't think this was possible. I used it mostly for quick dodges behind walls to heal up during scary unique fights. Basically this spell is the phase door of your dreams. I should mention it took me a while to work out how to use this spell because the targeting just seemed to select monsters. Then I realised I could click my mouse on any dungeon square and
hit 5 and (nearly) always land dead on the bull's eye - wow! Game changer and gives you total map control. It costs 30MP so it's not cheap but it has zero per cent failure so you can't really go wrong.

Wizard's Tome of Power
Much more powerful than when old, eponymous Raal was in charge of this book. This book can be summed up in two spells: mass banishment and mana storm. With this pair you can literally take on the world without any fear. I would honestly say it would take a very sloppy player to lose a game once they have a CL45 mage. I'd say 9/10 of my character deaths with other classes come at around this stage in the game when I'm farming up for *healing* potions for the end fight. I get too confident and underestimate a pack of chaos hounds or a sky dragon summons a few too many other sky dragons, who summon a few more. With a mage you never have to worry about any of this. By CL50 when I didn't need any more XP I was just mass banishing dungeons as a routine habit. The only monsters I kept alive for a fight were the good droppers (like dreads, vampires and the non-scary Ds and Ws). I never had to worry about black reavers, high-level hounds or furys ever again. It was bliss.
I suspect mass banishment is a little bit broken and I abused the hell out of it. Because everything dies (or at least gets warped off to the eternal void) you can rest up and recover those 75MP you've just spent. The only time you can't rest/recover your mana is fighting summoning uniques, but so long as you keep enough mana for dimension door then you'll always have a safe cubby hole to snooze back your mana and health in. Rinse/repeat. I think mass banishment might be the single best spell in Angband. Even the damage it deals to the character doesn't seem to be fair. I've cast it on absolutely packed vaults with high level Us and Ds, and even then it was only taking just under 200hp off my health. 1d3 of damage for every monster is the calculation, I'd suggest nerfing it to at least 1d6 just to make it a bit fairer.
Well that's enough of mass banishment, let's look at mana storm (the single reason why I only carried a weapon and a bow for their stat gains and resistances). So coupled with mana channel this is a Morgy-killing spell. The fact that the damage is irresistible is just so good. You are reliably dealing 700 damage per turn which is up there with most half-casters melee and way better than most rangers could manage with a launcher. The only times I've dealt more damage per round to Morgorth would be with a warrior or a BG, but I've had to be standing right next to him to do this (and that presents its own challenges). My end game was tricking Morgy into a long corridor then scooting back and unleashing liberal dollops of mana storm on his head. I'd quaff healing and mana potions as I casually reversed. If he put too many summons in between us then I'd just mass banish them away. In fact the end fight was so easy I was fight Morgy and Maesse the Bloody at the same time and barely broke a sweat.
I thought paladins with their high level healing spells made for unlosable end games, but that's before I discovered the holy trinity of mana channel, mass banishment and mana storm.

CONCLUSION: End game mages are literally the gods of Angband. I'm not the first to say it, but mages are without a doubt the most powerful class in Angband. This game is essentially all about knowing your danger in any given situation and being in control of it, and no other class is more in control of their situation than a mage.

ADVICE: You need to be cautious until your HP get over 600, and I prioritised wearing anything with stat boosts to CON, and swigged potions of toughness (even accepting occasional you feel very stupid debuffs as a worthwhile trade in the long run).

Pick your fights carefully and take your time. There are certain monsters that can give good XP but are a piece of piss for a mage to dispatch. Hydras can be frost bolted, vampires can be scorched, and once you've got mana bolt then most mid/late monsters and uniques can be carefully zapped to death.

In the early game be on the look out for weapons of *slay animal* (particularly daggers) which will increase intelligence, and helmets of intelligence are fairly common and cheap in the armoury.

Also, don't lose too much sleep about being overweight. If you're cautious the speed penalty isn't going to be a problem. But I stress, detect, detect, detect.

WHAT NEXT?: So I've now won with warrior, priest, paladin, ranger, rogue and blackguard. I found ranger the hardest, rogue the second hardest and paladin and priest were the most boring. I think blackguard was the most fun. I lost with necromancer and druid... so I think I'll give a druid another blast next and pump some Spinal Tap Stone Henge to inspire me.
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Old March 6, 2021, 10:22   #2
Nick
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Again, thanks for the review. Broad brush, your experience tallies with the intent - mages are supposed to be hard to start, but powerful late.
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Old March 6, 2021, 16:25   #3
wv_wxman
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Great review, and I agree - CL50 mages are an almost guaranteed win barring carelessness. I will add a minor quibble: Disable Traps/Destroy Doors does have at least a minor use - disarming the traps on chests, mainly the explosion trap. Prevents the toasting of potential goodies.

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Old March 6, 2021, 16:40   #4
Selkie
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Originally Posted by wv_wxman View Post
Great review, and I agree - CL50 mages are an almost guaranteed win barring carelessness. I will add a minor quibble: Disable Traps/Destroy Doors does have at least a minor use - disarming the traps on chests, mainly the explosion trap. Prevents the toasting of potential goodies.
Yeah, like I said, I just completely forgot the spell existed. I actually did have a couple of chests explode in my face so you think I'd have twigged
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Old March 6, 2021, 16:57   #5
Pete Mack
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Is Mana channel still 2x faster or only 1.5? I got the strong impression it was the latter.
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Old March 7, 2021, 03:29   #6
bron
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This is all fine as far as it goes, but it seems to completely miss the most overpowered brokenness of Mages - the Tap-Recharge Loop of Infinite Mana. I like to use stone-to-mud wands because (a) they have intrinsic utility since Mages don't get the spell, and (b) you can buy them in the store to keep up your stock for the rare occasions they blow up during a Recharge. Rest to recover the 75 mp from a Mass Banish? Nah - just tap a stack of wands and recharge a couple of them. Running low on mana in a tough fight? Just phase door away and Tap-Recharge-Tap-Recharge and you're ready for round two. Mana Channel is useful but only lasts 10 turns? No problem - cast it on yourself a few hundred times and you're good for the whole level. Ditto with Resistance. No need for subtlety or finesse - once you get past the (admittedly hard) initial stages, just Mana Bolt everything, all the time. At least until you can [Mass] Banish and Mana Storm, which is even more overpowering.

Infinite mana accounts for the absurdly low turns counts in competitions 224 and 225. Admittedly that was 4.2.0, but it seems 4.2.1 hasn't done anything about the problem.
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Old March 7, 2021, 05:01   #7
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Infinite mana accounts for the absurdly low turns counts in competitions 224 and 225. Admittedly that was 4.2.0, but it seems 4.2.1 hasn't done anything about the problem.
One thing that was done was to make Tap stun the player, and make stunning cancel Mana Channel. Also Mana Channel is now only 4/3 times as fast as usual.
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Old March 7, 2021, 05:03   #8
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That's all and good, but I've found that at mid-late game I don't need my mages to carry the items they tap for mana... the staves and wands I just don't want will drop everywhere.

Plenty of charges to top off from, just lying around.

Shame to let all that mana stay cooped up... set it free!
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Old March 7, 2021, 05:05   #9
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One thing that was done was to make Tap stun the player
Right thru the keyboard!

That'll lern ya how to play Angband fast.
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Old March 11, 2021, 05:10   #10
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One thing that was done was to make Tap stun the player, and make stunning cancel Mana Channel. Also Mana Channel is now only 4/3 times as fast as usual.
At the lower levels, it's hardly worth casting then, unless one is stealthy enough to cast/rest until it doesn't fail.

Seriously, this is a big nerf. Mages used to have Haste Self which got the player to +10 speed at lower levels, or twice the speed of normal speed opponents. Mana Channel was introduced which limited the speed difference to spell casting, more thematic, etc., all fine and good in 4.2.0.

The complaint was made that it's too strong at high player base speeds, and that it made the final fight too easy.

I made the suggestion of basing the spell acceleration rate on the player's overall speed. That would allow full low level 2x rate that it used to be, and Haste Self used to be, and not be overpowered for the final fight.

As it is now, short duration, and small acceleration, seems hardly worth casting, and seems less fun as well.

Getting Haste Self was one of those game changing moments for a mage. Now it's "meh," just another light buff I could choose or not.
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