So, you want to hunt monsters with a mage? Well, what exactly constitutes a mage for player versus monster (pvm) combat? Only 3 skills are actually required to make a successful PvM mage; magery (obviously, to be able to cast the spells), evaluate intelligence (to make the spells useful for damage rather than relying on summons and mind blast) and meditation (for mana regeneration so you can cast more spells). Some may argue, however, that meditation can even be replaced by focus or items for easier access to either armor or skill points, while still being able to regenerate mana at almost the same rate, but sacrificing the ability to meditate actively.
The fact that it only requires 3 skills (300-360 skill points) makes the mage very versatile in pvm; you can add a plethora of useful skills to a template that only requires that few skill points to begin with. For example, you could add all the barding skills (peacemaking, provocation, discordance and musicianship) and still be about as effective as any other mage in power. For this reason, pvm mages come in as many flavors as there are combinations of skill points, and it's, quite literally, impossible to give a full range of templates; I will list a few that are quite commonly used though:
- Magery, evaluate intelligence, meditation, peacemaking, music, and two optional skills (many opt for provocation). This template can handle many monsters at once, either through peacemaking or provocation.
- Magery, evaluate intelligence, meditation, animal taming, animal lore, veterinary, and an optional skill or power scrolls. Tamers have a lot of power in PvM, and adding a mage to the mix is just downright nasty; not to mention, you can greater heal your pets.
- Magery, evaluate intelligence, meditation, [weapon skill], anatomy, tactics, chivalry or healing. A warrior/mage hybrid, commonly picking up archery for the range. Will need particular items to make the archery/magery work together (spell channeling bows), but by then, a very powerful and "free spirited" mage (unlike the bard, he doesn't rely on several targets, and unlike the tamer he doesn't have to drag a pet around).
- Magery, evaluate intelligence, meditation, inscription and 3 optional skills. The "standard" "pure mage" template. This one relies solely on his/her magery for everything, both offense and defense. Can be very hard to play, but is also very fulfilling to think of new tactics to take down a monster.
The possibilities are endless really, and you can very easily make an effective PvM mage character that is your very own and unique, while still being very effective in PvM. You may want to take a look at the alternate ways to spend skill points below for more ideas on how to create your mage.
Player versus Player (PvP) templates have steeper requirements than the aforementioned PvM templates. Not only will you need magery, evaluate intelligence and meditation, you will also need a way to defend yourself from melee attacks as well as resisting spells to prevent other mages from exploiting a very big hole in your template.
For this reason, there are, obviously, "less" options in terms of being a mage, and since you will probably want to power scroll some skills as well, it can be very hard to fit in more than one or two optional skills. Of course, there are ways around this, for instance the the staff of the magi can free up 100.0-120.0 skill points that you would normally have to devote towards melee defenses. I'll list a few commonly used PvP templates below:
- Magery, evaluate intelligence, meditation, resisting spells, wrestling, parry and an optional skill (focus or inscription for instance) or power scrolled skills. Very hard to kill template due to the parrying, but the defensive prowess comes at a cost of offensive powers.
- Magery, evaluate intelligence, meditation, resisting spells, anatomy, weapon skill, tactics (or power scrolled skills, focus, etc). Commonly known as a "tank mage"; this character is capable of dealing damage with both spells and weaponry, and as such, is a great offensive character.
- Magery, evaluate intelligence, meditation, resisting spells, swords, inscription and focus or power scrolls. This template focuses mainly on spell damage (inscription is 10% spell damage increase), but combines it with powerful special moves such as bleed, mortal wound, and infectious strike.
Again, this is just a small sample of templates, as there are many templates useable for pvp. Take a look below at the alternate skill usage to pick up some ideas of how to make your mage. You might find that the list has skills that wouldn't occur to a mage normally.
Lets have a look at how you can spend your extra skill points as a mage; there are many options (and, obviously, I won't list skills such as begging, even if it certainly is an option for a mage character it doesn't add much in terms of combat).
Alchemy (PvM and PvP)
Alchemy can be a nice addition to a mage who uses a lot of explosion potions as alchemy adds to the power of those (1 damage/5 points of alchemy). Combine it with the "enhance potion +5% to +25%" property on jewelry, and you have a very solid addition to your already powerful offense. This, of course, can be used in both pvm and pvp, as it's basically a stand alone skill that adds more offensive powers to your mage.
Cartography, Lockpicking and Fishing (PvM mainly)
These skills are basically extra ways of earning money. Treasure maps and messages in bottles (MiB) is a very nice and quiet way to make money, and, as a mage, if you're careful, you should be able to deal with most of the spawn, even on a level 5 map (although, the initial spawn will be rough). They're also very group friendly skills, and that in and by itself can make these two skills very worthwhile to add if you find yourself playing with people enjoying treasure hunting. This is mainly for pvm, as it really doesn't add anything to pvp (unless you can set up a role playing situation where bandits will raid your chests, which could be very much fun indeed).
Chivalry (PvM and PvP)
At first glance, chivalry doesn't add much in terms of effectiveness to a mage unless he has a weapon skill backed up by anatomy and/or tactics (for enemy of one, consecrate weapon and divine fury). However, there are two spells that any mage can benefit greatly from. Holy light is an area effect energy spell that does damage in a 3 tile range around you; granted, it's very similar to chain lightning, but the main differences are that it can be cast very swiftly (once every 0.5 seconds), can be cast on the run and costs as little as 10 mana. The other is Dispel Evil; a spell that repels monsters around you, and forces them to run away. The downside to those two spells is that they both rely heavily on high skill levels - holy light because it's hard to cast, and dispel evil because it relies on high skill to make hard monsters run away. Of course, a little bit of chivalry can help a lot too, for remove curse (only way to remove the necromancer spell "Strangle") and to be able to heal right after you die (due to tithing points, the chivalry reagents, staying on your character) with Close Wounds. And, of course, chivalry has a far better cure poison spell than magery does, cleanse by fire. This skill can be added to any template and be effective, be it pvp or pvm.
Detect Hidden (PvP mainly)
While of limited use in PvM (orc scouts and shadow knights) it can be very effective for flushing out the shadow knights in the gauntlet. People will appreciate you a lot for finding them so they can be killed quicker. In PvP, this skill has obvious uses; any skill level of detect hidden can reveal another mage casting "invisibility" on himself, and higher levels of the skill can even counter the hiding skill which some people have. All in all, not a bad way to spend those extra 10-15 points you just can't find a use for on your template.
Focus (PvM and PvP)
The primary reason for a mage to add focus to a template is to add to his mana regeneration rate. Due to the way it works, it's best if you add the skill in 20's, as anything in between doesn't add to mana regeneration. Another advantage is that it adds to stamina regeneration which can, at some points, make or break a combat situation due to swing speeds, and will allow you to push through people more often in Felucca.
Healing and Anatomy (PvM and PvP)
These skills are fairly obvious in what they do - add another level of healing to your mage on top of magery and potions. Being able to always keep a band aid running is a very nice advantage, and in the past, healer mages have been one of the better templates all round. It's still a very nice skill set to add to a mage, especially after the reduced bandage timers were implemented. The only reason it isn't as common anymore is due to the fact that there are more options for templates now.
Hiding (PvM and PvP)
"Why do I need hiding when I have invisibility?". Simply put; cause hiding is better! There's no casting delay on hiding, and it can't be interrupted at all. And with gm hiding you can even hide within 8 tiles of your opponent even if he's flagged aggressor (i.e., a monster attacking you) to you! Also, hiding lasts forever or till you're revealed, again, surpassing invisibility by several miles.
Inscription (PvM and PvP)
The primary use for inscription on a mage is the spell damage it adds. 1% damage bonus for every 20 points of inscription with a 5% bonus for being gm for a total of 10% spell damage increase for GM inscription. The downside to this bonus is that it really isn't much until you to have it grandmastered. Combine this with high intelligence, spell damage increase jewelry or artifacts, and you're capable of reaching very high levels of spell damage. The skill does, however, have a few minor advantages as well as the spell damage. Reactive Armor spell gains an increase in physical resist based on inscription (1 physical resist/20 points of inscription), magic reflection very similarly gains physical resist for a lesser penalty (1 physical resist/20 points of inscription) and protection has some of its drawbacks lessened (+1 physical resist and +1.0 magic resistance/20 points of inscription) although the -2 casting speed remains at any level of inscription. That's a fairly advantageous skill value for a mage.
Musicianship, Peacemaking, Provocation and Discordance (mainly PvM)
Musicianship combined with any 3 of the other skills is an excellent way to make monsters easier to handle. Peacemaking by preventing the monsters from attacking back (although, they do break out of the peacemaking effect). Provocation by making sure two monsters are occupied with one another rather than you. And discordance by lowering the skills and stats of the targeted monster. They're basically crowd control skills, and can make up for a very powerful mage in PvM. Unfortunately, the PvP usage of these skills is fairly limited, mainly being peacemaking for dealing with tamers who attack you.
Necromancy and Spirit speak (PvM and PvP)
Adding necromancy and Spirit speak adds another level to your mage - in form of 16 new spells, and a new form of healing (that'll heal through anything, even mortal wound and poison). Although most of the forms are fairly useless to a mage in combat (with a few exceptions, being lich form for mana regeneration and vampiric embrace solely for the poison resistance although you will lack in terms of healing because you can't use garlic), there are quite a few spells that have a lot of uses. Strangle is probably the most useful one of them, as it'll interrupt your opponent and can be removed with nothing short of remove curse, as well as being a poison based spell that does more damage based on how much stamina your opponent has left. Pain spike is a great finisher to any arsenal, and seeing as it only costs 5 mana, it's always a great bet, not to mention that it lowers stamina drastically, and as such is great in combination with strangle. Mind rot will make it very hard for an opposing mage to kill you as his spells suddenly cost more mana, and corpse skin will add damage to your fire based spells (of which necromancy has none) as it lowers fire resist by 15 points, but keep in mind that it raises poison and cold resistances so you will essentially make it harder to use necromancy on a target that has corpse skin on him. Poison strike is another good spell for a mage, as it adds the elemental damage he himself lacks, and wither is just all round good, especially vs paladins with high karma, as well as monsters with low cold resistance. Blood oath is an excellent spell as well, as it turns every damage you take from the one you casted it on, into damage he takes as well. All round, necromancy is a great addition to a template, even if it does leave you lacking in the scroll department. It's virtually impossible to build a proper scrolled necromancer mage so keep that in mind before walking the path; alternatively, you can use artifacts (staff of the magi and midnight bracers) to make up for some skill points and scroll other skills with.
Parrying (PvM and PvP)
Parrying adds another level of melee defenses to a mage, and it's actually quite good even if you only have a few points to devote to it. The chance to block with a shield equipped is as simple as (parry skill) * 0.3, so even 30 points in this skill will give you a 10% chance of blocking a hit that would've normally hit you. Very nice skill if you're going to carry around a shield for a few extra resist points or luck anyway. However, you must keep in mind that post publish 25, parrying requires 80 dexterity to be fully functional; each dexterity point below 80 lowers your block chance by an entire percent (to a minimum of 30 of maximum). So a 79 dexterity gm shieldsfighter would instead of blocking 30% of all hits, only block 29% - this is a huge change as many mages can't afford 80 dexterity.
Poisoning (PvM and PvP)
This skill is capable of enhancing the level of poison you cast within two tiles of the target, or with poison fields. How high a level of poison you cast is based on how much combined poisoning skill and magery you have on your template ((magery + poisoning)/2; if that's equal or greater than 65, you will cast normal poison instead of the standard lesser poison. If it's greater or equal to 85, you'll cast greater poison, and lastly, if it's greater or equal to 100, you will cast deadly poison without fail). This can be very useful vs smaller monsters in large groups, and it can help do damage to people in PvP. It has another great advantage though; if you combine it with a weapon skill and the weapon skill + poisoning is 200.0 or more, you will receive a -5 mana reduction on all special moves, as well as being able to inflict poisoning with a weapon that is 1 level higher (poisoning skill = percentage chance of higher level poison), so you can inflict up to level 5 poison for a mere 10 mana. One thing to be warned about regarding increasing poisoning is that, while the level of poison increases, that doesn't necessarily mean that it becomes better - lesser poison, the one normally cast, is the fastest poison in the game, and as such, it's far better for interrupting enemy mages in PvP than even level 5 poison is - however, keep in mind that publish 25 made the higher level poisons remarkably harder to cure, and if you run into someone who has no potions he'll have a hard time curing poisons with magery.
Stealing and Snooping (PvP mainly)
Stealing and Snooping are primarily used in PvP (although, you could add stealing to your template for PvM to swipe artifacts in Doom to sell for extra cash), and can be a very cruel way to kill opponents or annoy them by stealing uninsured items such as power scrolls. For instance, if you steal the bandages from a warrior, he will suddenly find himself in a position unable to heal himself unless he has Spirit speak or chivalry on his template. Similarly, if you steal the garlic off a mage, he will be unable to heal or cure unless he uses potions; you can also steal away most the offense of a mage by swiping either mandrake root, black pearls or nightshade. Very devious template, but as with necromancy and Spirit speak, it leaves something to be desired in the possibility of power scrolls.
Taming, animal lore and veterinary (PvM and PvP)
A mage with the power of pets on his side; a very powerful combination indeed. This is of fairly obvious use as a white wyrm backed up by a mage is a powerhouse. Taming and lore should both be on any template considering this, as they're both needed to control the pets, whereas veterinary can be skipped for other skills for PvP usage - you simply won't have the time to heal your pets with veterinary in PvP, nor will you likely have the skill points for the skill. For PvM, however, you should find room for veterinary on your template, or you will spend your entire time healing your pets with magery.
Weapon Skills, Anatomy and Tactics (PvM and PvP)
Adding a weapon skill to a mage is a very good way to add another level of offense to him/her, as well as adding melee defense to him. In PvM, the preference will probably be archery, as it can be very painful walking close to a monster, but in PvP any will do for the added damage and special moves. Throwing anatomy or tactics into the mix will simple enhance the damage you do with your weapon, so keep that in mind when choosing which to have higher; I would suggest getting the weapon skill as high as possible, leaving anatomy at 100.0 (if you pick it up) due to the way the formula for defensive wrestle, and keep tactics at whichever level you have skill points for.