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Mage Strategy

Sorcerers are a powerful class late in the game, but start out very weak. They need time to build out their mana level and their spell levels before they can become strong. But getting to that level is not always easy.

Early Mage Strategy

So let's start with what you have... A grade2 firebolt spell. This should be your prime method of attack from the very beginning. And a staff of charged bolt, with 40 charges. For now, this is your only lightning-based spell. So value it. The witch Adria can recharge it for you, but that will cost a lot of money (we'll deal with that overcharging shops here in Tristram later on...). You can recharge it yourself, but at the level of skill you have at the moment, this will lower the charges it can hold significantly. I advise some common sense when pondering recharges. If you find a book of Charged Bolt early, you'll have a lightning attack of your own, and should not waste any more money on recharges, but do it yourself. But until then I'd better pay that ripoff witch, and preserve the staff for emergencies.

Then there are your lives' savings... How much will that be? 100 gold perhaps... What should you do with them? Many advocate to buy some protective cloak and perhaps a cap at Griswold... But think about it: These will only protect you marginally and only against the very weakest monsters. The 100 gold will be spent for something that becomes obsolete in no time. I'm a strong follower of the "offense is the best defense" philosophy, and would rather buy two mana potion for that. That will be enough mana to shoot a good number of monsters BEFORE they hit you...

Now you enter the dungeon for the first time... Be prepared. Ready the spells you have in your mental "drawers", so you can cast them fast...

[Note: set spell hotkeys by hitting "S", moving the mouse cursor over the spell and hitting one of the F5-F8 keys to assign this key as the Hotkey. I suggest you use F5 for Firebolt and F6 for charged bolt and stick with that setup - F5=fire F6=lightning for the rest of your life]

Ok, you see your first enemy, what should you do? Don't try the way of the warrior. Don't run TOWARDS the monsters, and try to hit them. Some of you who believe in reincarnation may have BEEN a Warrior in a previous life. Get rid of the habits. You're weak, you are an intellectual. Let the monsters come to you! And learn to retreat a lot! That has nothing to do with cowardness, only with intelligence. Getting yourself killed isn't going to save the world. Fighting from a better tactical position might... I have brothers and sisters, who are Warriors or Rogues, who would advise the very same thing. Even a wise warrior will choose the place and time of battle, and not charge blindly into the fray! Wait for your enemies, and don't let too many at once notice you. Advance SLOWLY!!!

Then LEARN about the enemies.

In the beginning, money is scarce. You may have to preserve your mana (something you should never do later) and kill some monsters by bashing them with that wooden stick. Learn which ones you can hit with the stick. Your basic zombie is slow and stupid, even a weak and clumsy mage can hit it. So if it's one - use the staff. If three are coming your way - shoot two. The fallen ones are weak and cowardly, they will run away every time one falls. You can handle a single one with the staff. If more are coming, shoot one with a firebolt, or cast some Charged bolts from your staff to thin them out. Be careful about skeletons. They are not THAT easy to hit (remember: a warrior hits 20% better than you do, just for BEING a warrior, he hits harder and has critical hits, and he swings most weapons faster - so don't waste time to imitate him) and they can hurt if they hit. The good thing is, your staff, other than a sword, does full damage against them (a club will even do 50% extra). If more than one skeleton comes at you, again, use firebolts and charged bolts from your staff. NEVER try to beat it out with the scavengers. These animals are quick, tough, and really HURT. But a single firebolt will in most cases kill them. Same goes for any flying critters. Shoot first, ask questions later...

A note on spellcasting:
Try to shoot at straight lines. Along the dungeon walls or at a 45 degree angle. You'll hit better. And try to shoot at closer distance first, until your magic skill improves. 2-3 squares are a good distance. Use doorways and other choke points to channel the enemies (remember: THEY come to YOU, not vice versa!), much like a warrior would. You'll hit better that way. Don't be too shy about the charged bolts, cast two or three or even more of them to flood small rooms filled with monsters. Then switch to Firebolt or the staff to finish off the rest. And try to learn, as you advance and the critters become tougher, just how many shots they need to die. Don't fire a firebolt, wait, shoot another, wait some more and see if it might drop... Once you know "Flesh clan goat, usually 3 shots", fire 3 Bolts in quick succession at every one. It saves precious time and won't let them advance. Sometimes you will waste a shot 'cause the second killed it already, but rather waste one bolt, than get hit. Oh,  and: learn the critters strengths and weaknesses! Learn what kind of attack they resist or later what they are immune against. Saves precious time.

Spells to look for:
In the beginning the most important spells are Firebolt, charged bolt, Holy Bolt (For the undead it is VERY effective) and healing. Healing yourself with spell is cheaper than red pots, but in emergencies you should drink potions from your belt and rather keep shooting the beasts that hurt you while doing so.

[I never hotkey healing with a mage - unless very early I HAVE no other spells to choose. I heal myself in a quite moment by using the spellbook and drink potions in a tight spot.]

Once you find your first Book of Mana Shield, all the healing becomes obsolete anyway. And that is the single most important spell to look for when you advance. Don't enter the caves without it :) Firewall is a very cost-effective low-level spell that can clear entire rooms in the church and catacombs. The good thing is, it burns while you do something else, like firebolting everything that comes through. Learn to use it well! Learn to cast it quick to cover your retreat and to cast it in straight lines behind doors. Lightning will replace Charged bolt later. Learn to use it to its best effect, by retreating around corners, to line up your pursuers. The more you hit in a row, the better...

Now, as you advance in skill, what should you train? Well, my somewhat biased opinion: Don't bother with anything that helps you hit critters over the head. Focus on magic. I see a lot fledgeling mages making push-ups, lifting weights and practising their hand-eye coordination. I say: forget it! You need no dexterity to hit with your spells. You need to train your magic skill. Even with some strength, you'll NEVER match the Warrior's fighting skill. Concentrate on your strengths and don't whine about your weaknesses. You should avoid being hit alltogether, so don't bother boosting your vitality. Once you have Mana Shield, you can take more than even the sturdiest Warrior! The only reason one might want to build strength, is to be able to use a set of Mail Of Sorcery or a Staff of Wizardy :) Once you are a mage of the 26th circle, you are entitled to buy Elixiers at the witch. You can take care of Strength and Dex then.

[Or in short: put all lvl-up points into magic :)]

That brings us to the items to look for. My first advice: Never BUY armor in the beginning. Never BUY weapons. Use your scarce money for Books and blue pots. Spells are your offense and defense. Focus on them. Of course, make use of everything you may come upon and that may look useful (No, I won't lecture about my personal preference for cursed gear), but don't spend money you don't have for things that are less important than your spell grades. Sell everything you don't really need to buy books and Blues. Later, if money is available, look for things that add to your magic skill, mana or spell levels above all. Buy every book of Firebolt, Charged bolt, Holy bolt, Fire Wall, etc. You can find. The spells become cheaper and more effective as you advance. You should not BUY the following, once you know the spells: Town portal, Mana Shield, Healing. That would be a waste of money.

One sidenote though: Enchanted shrines are the mage's favourite, as they raise ALL your spell levels by one, and decrease only ONE by a level. Early in the game you may want to make sure that you got all VITAL spells at least at lvl 2 before touching one, so it won't lower that spell to lvl0 and make it unusable And: should you find one of those beauties extremely early in your travels, don't touch it, note the position and return later, when you know more spells. That way you'll profit more from it.

Some more survival tips:
Organize your belt. The second you need to think about which belt pouch to grab for is the second you'll die. In the beginning, have some healing potions ready for emergencies. Use small pots in the beginning, full pots, though they are overprized later when money is less tight. It's some safety that pays off. Once you have Mana shield, you won't need Pepin's pots any more. A good belt setup then is: only big blues, but on the two closest position. Use a Big yellow (yeah, the hilariously overprized) one in the first, a Scroll of mana shield in the second pouch. In an emergency, two quick grabs will get you full up and running again.

[Belt position 1 (Full rejuv) and 2 (scroll of MS) - hit a quick 1-2 while walking away from the enemy - the "Oh my god I'm gonna die!" keys)

Practise your mental discipline. Know which spell is in which area of your mind. Cast them at a second's notice without thinking.

[Translation: learn your Hotkeys!!]

And the most important:
NEVER TOUCH ANY SHRINE YOU DON'T KNOW THE EFFECT OF!!! (Especially Goat shrines or cauldrons, whose effects are random) There are 3 shrines that can cripple the aspiring sorceror for LIFE! The FASCINATING, ORNATE, and SACRED shrines raise one rather insignificant spell by two grades, but lower your maximum mana pool by 10% PERMANENTLY! I have seen valued colleagues commit SUICIDE when they found out, they were more than 100 mana short of what they could have been! Get a list of the shrines effects and NEVER touch one when in doubt!

A side note on the two toughest enemies in lower levels: Catch "The Butcher" behind a grate or in the stairs down to lvl3. Use firebolt and/or a scroll of Firewall you may have found by then to barbeque him. Use holy bolts on "King Leoric". Don't try to hit any of these two with sticks...

Sorcerer Sub-Categories

When you start getting more experienced and get Lv. 30+, you will have to branch off into a sorcerer sub-category. There are two types of sorcerers: Armored Mages and Artillery Mages.

Armored (Tank) Mage

The armored mage has a goal of upping the armor class to the point where he can teleport blind into a room and not get locked up in stun. Stormshield and the circlet add 20 to strength, and the armored mage must make up the 25 strength bonus (35 if you use unidentified gotterdamerung) some other way, preferably with a titans item or a combination resistance/strength adder item. The armored mage has no resistance on any of his items, so he has to find resistance on jewelry. These restrictions lead to a lower mana ball, and his spell power maxes at 16th level.

Artillery Mage

An Artillery mage has +5 casting levels. He is lightly armored, and must stand back. The cap + the plate offer an intrinsic +40% resist all, so he only needs one obsidian item to max out resistance. Because he has no strength requirement to wear the armor, his other slots are available for nice things like dragons rings of wizardry and the like. A necessity is a harmony item. Artillery mages can not take close melee fighting. They have trouble with creatures like Illusion weavers. They must fight from a distance, and rely upon stone curse to prevent creatures from engaging them in hand to hand combat. The mentality with the Artillery mage is 'it won't survive my awesome spell power to get close enough'.

These are two extremes. Many fall somewhere in between. Both types of mages play very differently. The Artillery mage relies on spell power to take out creatures. Triple immunes are slow work with the Golem for a Artillery mage. However that 20th fireball is a real rush. Artillery mages work very well in groups, as they can rely upon others for the melee. The armored mages advance the fastest in solo play. They can power clear rooms by a port and blast strategy. Drakes and other creatures can be right on top of them and they can blast away without being locked up in stun. They can also melee triple immunes with a haste weapon with a reasonable chance of success. With armor classes in excess of 250, you can swing on a hell difficulty triple immune obsidian lord without using stone curse - they can't hit you. Hell Caves is the best experience stomping ground above level 35, and you will need to think on the order to clearing it 20 or more times to level. And after level 42 start clearing Caves through to Laz.  The Achilles heel of an armored mage is his resistance tends to be low unless he gets a few lucky finds. Strength is always a struggle.

These are extremes. Most people will fall somewhere in between. Think about the style of play you will enjoy the most, and gear yourself accordingly.

The Belt

My preferred belt is 6 full manas with a full rejuv in the 7-8 slots. The 7-8 slots are there just to keep you alive long enough to restore your mana shield. The standard potion load for me is 23 potions for a nightmare hell run (that is 8 in belt, 9 along bottom row, + first 2 columns full). At low levels where you are cash poor, rely on ordinary mana potions. Sell off most everything you can and buy potions.

Spell Hotkeys

These are very important. I usually have Fireball, Lightning/Chain Lightning, Teleport, and Stone Curse hot keyed. Fireball should be your primary attack. If the monsters are immune to fire, then try Lightning on them. Lightning does about the same damage as Chain Lightning. The reason I use Lightning is because it does not hit my fellow companions(if solo, I use Chain Lightning and there are ways to prevent or manage the gaps). Teleport is always useful for hopping over walls or getting out of tough situations. Finally, Stone Curse is great hotkeyed because if you come across I pack of Vipers or Knights, it is best to Stone Curse them all, and then launch Fireballs. They will not be able to reach you in time before they are turned into stone, and the Fireball finishes them off very quickly. The Fireball should not miss, because you are aiming at a stationary object.

Other Spells

There are other spells that you should use but you do not need to hotkey because you will not use them as frequently as the above mentioned spells. These spells are Town Portal, Mana Shield, and Golem. Town Portal and Mana Shield, are one time use spells, you won't need to cast them consecutively. Golem might be casted more than once, but still not as much as the four hotkeyed spells. Golems are great companions if you do not have an actual warrior by your side, especially in Hell/Hell against the triple immunes. I think I also better mention Firewall, Elemental, Bone Spirit and Guardian, they can be helpful at the appropriate times. Oh, and how could I forget! Telekinesis!


The main thing you have to do is to avoid getting swarmed. Watch out for Vipers and Lava Maws especially. Sorcerers generally cannot afford to get stunlocked, but if you do get stunlocked, try to walk away, if you cannot cast teleport. Their main weakness is lack of AC, so avoid physical contact. If you see a large pack of monsters that you know you cannot handle, simply just start Stone Cursing all of them, and then come in with your Fireball or Lightning.

Positioning and Kill Zones

Chain Lightning:  the spell that most mages love/hate. After your CL reaches level 12 and above, it will usually gap. The screens below should help you learn to manage the gaps and produce more kills. Remember to use Fireball first to kill off the lightning immunes, so you don't waste a stream of lightning on them. And notice the high concentration of streams, they overlap, doing double, triple, or more damage to anything in its path. Click to enlarge pics.

Positioning Casting Aftermath
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Getting the witches between myself and some unseen targets. Having a group on the other side of the wall (Laz and his flunkies) on the other side of the wall, causes them to be targeted and overlap of the streams. The multiple steams of lightning made quick work of these ladies (yes it was normal diff, for demonstration purposes).

Kill Zones:  This is my favorite tactic. After triggering a room (or a few monsters, on Hell difficulty) I retreat around the corner. The ones that will chase me, come around the corner, and I blast away at them with the appropriate spell. Note: at higher difficulties, you may need to do some Stone Curse also. There are also a few different ways to trigger the monsters to follow you. Casting Guardian will trigger some of the non-lightning immunes and tossing a few lightning bolts into the room will trigger the non-fire immunes. Oh yeah, poking your head in there will work too. Click to enlarge pics.

Positioning Killing Aftermath
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After triggering a few baddies, I run back around the corner When they round the corner, I greet them with the appropriate spell (CL in this case). After luring out all the baddies that will come to my killing zone, it's time to clean up and collect the prizes.