Dragon Age Origins Tactics: A Guide to Mage Spells
Dragon Age Origins is an extremely tactical game, and Mages play a big part in this. Mages have numerous ways to disable and manipulate opponents, as well as cause large amounts of damage, making them critical tactical tools. This spell guide gives tips for choosing the best spells in the game.
Spell It Out
Mages are arguably the most powerful class in Dragon Age. Those who have played Bioware's previous fantasy RPGs won't find this as a surprise, as Bioware has always endowed its mages with a huge number of useful skills. Besides taking hits, Mages can do just about everything. They can deal absurd amounts of damage, debuff enemies and buff allies, heal, and perform crowd control.
This spell guide for Mages gives general information about the different schools of magic available for Mages. Remember, Mages do not need to specialize in any of these schools, so feel free to delve into multiple areas if you wish.
The Mage Tree
This small tree consists of one line of four spells. The first, Arcane Bolt, is a low mana cost single-target damage spell, while the other three are simple buffs. While Arcane Bolt is worthwhile as a consistent damage-dealer, I otherwise don't like this school of magic. Its best buff is Arcane Shield, but there are other spells that offer protection.
The Primal school of magic deals heavily with damage dealing spells. It includes spells such as Cone of Cold, Fireball, and Chain Lightning, all of which can deliver extremely heavy damage to a large number of opponents. Friendly fire can be an issue, but used carefully a Mage who delves deeply into the Primal school of magic is better at doing damage against multiple opponents then any other build.
The Primal school does include some utility, however. One must-have is Earthquake. Earthquake does no damage, but it knocks anyone who fails a physical resistance check in a very large area to the ground. The spell lasts a long time and can catch an entire mob of opponents. Having made the incoming hoard helpless, the Primal mage can then follow up with area of effect spells like Fireball and Tempest. These will do massive damage and the enemy won't be able to do much to stop your onslaught.
Do note, however, that the spells in the Primal tree are somewhat redundant. Cone of Cold, Flame Blast, and Shock are basically the same spell. They just utilize different types of damage. Some enemies are immune to specific types of damage, so having the versatility can be useful, but be wary of taking all three versions of the same spell.
The Creation school of magic is for Mages who want to help their allies directly. It includes numerous buffs and heals which provide assistance to allies. The healing and buff lines, which begin with the spells Heal and Heroic Offense respectively, are fairly straight forward. They're not over-powering, but extremely useful. Haste is a spell to take note of here. When used on backstabbing Rogues it can result in huge amounts of offense in a short time.
The Glyph line includes some very good defensive spells. Glyph of Warding is a good buff, but Glyph of Repulsion is probably the best spell of this line. This Glyph knocks down enemies that fail a physical resistance check, making it much easier to defend your party against a mob of opponents. The Summoning line of spells is the only line I find disappointing. Its best spell is probably Spellbloom, which increases mana regeneration, but the fact that opponents can use it as well could be an issue.
Describing the Spirit school of magic is somewhat difficult as it includes numerous utility and damage spells. It starts with the Anti-Magic and Mana Altering spell lines. The Anti-Magic spell line is a really good line of spells for those who have trouble fighting enemy Mages. Its best spell is probably Anti-Magic Ward which protects an ally from any spells, beneficial or hostile, for a short time. In certain situations a single warrior can be used to face down a powerful mage with this spell. Dispel Magic is also great, although it can seem a bit redundant if a Templar is in the party. The Mana-Altering line, on the other hand, acts as a form of offense against enemy spell casters. The spells in this line deal with draining mana from enemy casters. While they can be useful, I believe the Anti-Magic spell line to be more reliable.
The Death Spells line is mediocre at best. While Walking Bomb seems awesome, since an enemy who dies with this de-buff explodes, it is of little use in combat because it causes friendly fire. The best spell in this line is probably Death Syphon, as it provides the Mage with mana when opponents are killed.
The Telekinetic line, on the other hand, is extremely good. It includes three very effective crowd control spells: Mind Blast, Force Field, and Crushing Prison. A Mage with all three spells can completely turn the tide of any fight, as both Force Field and Crushing Prison render the target completely helpless for a very long period of time. Force field, however, makes the target immune to damage. It can be used against allies in an emergency as protection. Crushing Prison, on the other hand, does damage over time while rendering the target helpless and does not make the target immune to damage.
If you're looking for debuffs, this is the school of magic for you. Every spell line in this school includes numerous debuffs. The Slowing line of spells starts off with Weakness, which inflicts penalties to attack and defense on the target as well as slowing the target's movement. Things become nastier from there, as the Slowing line also includes a single-target and area effect paralyze spell. These spells are just as good at crowd control as the spells in the Telekinetic line of the Spirit school.
The Hex line can also be very useful. The standouts are Misdirection Hex and Death Hex. Misdirection Hex causes an opponent's normal attacks to automatically miss - only some special attacks and critical hits will make contact. Death Hex has the reverse effect. All normal hits to an enemy with Death Hex become critical hits. Both of these Hexes often stick to bosses, and they'll make your Warriors and Rogues on the front line extremely happy.
The Sleep Line consists of spells which, as you'd expect, cause the opponent to become disoriented, fall asleep, or have nightmares. It includes two crowd control spells, Sleep and Waking Nightmare, as well as two minor debuffs, Disorient and Horror. While the Sleep line is not weak, I feel that it pales in comparison to the Slowing line and to the Spirit school's Telekinetic line.
Finally we come to the Draining line, which includes spells which manipulate life. Its lowest level spell, the Drain Life spell, is a very hand spell for Mages. Set it to automatically cast at 25% health by using tactics and it acts as a sort of instant heal. The Draining line also includes Curse of Mortality, a nice debuff which makes it impossible for the target to be healed, and Death Cloud, which does spirit damage to all opponents in an area. While both of these are decent spells, the Primal school is better for dealing death, so I generally only recommend picking up Drain Life.