How to be a better mage.
Magery is a very popular skill in Ultima Online, however it can be one of the most difficult to master effectively. A young mage must be prepared for a long and expensive training regimen before even the most basic monsters can be defeated. The lucky mage will find a benefactor and perhaps a full LRC (Lower Reagent Cost) suit to practice with. Before LRC armor, Magery was a very expensive skill to train as reagents are used to cast spells, and had to be replenished constantly.
This article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to building a mage from scratch. I am gearing these comments toward a mid-level to GM mage seeking to optimize their skill and power. Also, I don’t intend to focus on equipment. Not only can LRC armor be quite expensive, armor is also a very specific choice based on the preferred play style of the mage.
There are six important magery skills that have a direct effect on performance:
- Magery: This skill has a direct effect on your chance to successfully cast a spell. Get it as high as you can afford. A 120 Magery powerscroll can be expensive so start by purchasing cheaper scrolls that will get you over the GM level.
- Evaluate Intelligence: This skill will gain automatically when you cast spells, however to advance to the higher levels you may have to focus on techniques that give the best gains. This skill has a direct effect on SDI (Spell Damage Increase) and at GM+ levels can add a significant punch to your spells.
- Inscription: Although you might not think of inscription as a fighting skill, at GM level it adds a 10% damage bonus to spells.
- Meditation: Without manna, you can’t even cast spells so the ability to regenerate manna is very important to a mage. You want this skill at GM+ levels.
- Focus: Many Mages overlook this skill, but Focus actually boosts manna and stamina regen. Focus skill gains quickly and you should try for GM+ skill level. A Focus powerscrcoll will be a lot less expensive then a Meditation scroll, so it might be a good option for a younger mage to invest in this skill first. Don’t underestimate the added Stamina regen, as a mage you will put most of your stats into Intelligence and you will probably end up with Stamina as the lowest stat. The added regen from focus will help keep you mobile when you take a beating.
- Resisting Spells: Some templates drop this skill in favor of something else, but you can’t cast spells while paralyzed. You can’t heal, move or do damage to your opponent. I recommend 90-GM+ Resisting Spells. You can adjust this based on what other skills are in your template.
Skills that compliment magery:
- Chivalry: If you don’t like carrying around Enchanted Apples, you might consider adding 40 points of Chivalry so you can use the Remove Curse spell. Since there is a use timer on Enchanted Apples, you may want this spell for the times you find you can’t stuff one more apple down your throat.
- Mysticism: Many Mysticism spells compliment magery spells very well. Cleansing Wind provides a combination heal/cure/remove curse spell. The Rising Colossus is usually more durable than an Energy Vortex. The offensive spells deal a good bit of damage and Spell Plague has a residual Chaos Damage effect that can combine with other spells. Focus substitutes for Imbuing to determine the effectiveness of Cleansing Winds so if you’ve already added Focus to your Magery template, you don’t need to learn Imbuing.
Now here is where it gets personal. Some folks may wonder why I am not recommending Necromancy, or Spellweaving as complimentary skills. I’ve built templates using both and found them to be ineffective for my particular style of play. Necromancy also requires Spirit Speak, so by the time you get those to at least GM level, you end up compromising on other skills. Spellweaving relies on Arcane Focus, and unless you can achieve that you will find the offensive spells sorely under-powered. The Mage/Poisoner template takes advantage of a bonus that Poisoning skill can give to Poisoning spells. Since many of the more powerful monsters are immune to Poison, this has limited use in PvM (Player vs. Monster) battles. However if you prefer PvP (Player vs. Player) combat then you might consider this a valuable addition to your template.
If you use the skills I’ve recommended above, you will maximize the damage caused by Magery spells, and boost your Manna regeneration so that you can cast more spells for longer periods. Like Archers, a Mage delivers ranged damage, and avoids direct physical combat. Your character stats will focus mostly on Intelligence, but be sure to keep enough strength to wear your armor and equip your shield even when cursed.
Another personal choice in designing your Mage is the selection of Race. Race selection doesn’t just have an effect on appearance, there are distinct advantages to each race. As a Mage, you may consider the Elven race to obtain the Manna boost, but in my personal experience I found that Humans are more durable in direct combat. I took a fully developed Human Mage, ran him through the Human to Elf quest and with no changes to his template or equipment I proceeded to test him against several “benchmark” critters. My Elven Mage died more often than the Human. While it’s true that the Manna boost let him cast more spells, I found that I was casting more Greater Heal spells just to stay alive. So, the extra Manna went towards staying alive, not causing damage to my opponent. I’m not saying that Human Mages are superior to Elven Mages. It all depends on how you fight with your Mage, and what kind of critters you tend to fight the most.
If you’re tired of being Human consider the new Gargoyle Race as an option for your Mage. They get a bonus to Manna Regen that stacks on top of Focus and Meditation, and they have an intuitive understanding of Mysticism. They are tough, and the ability to fly makes it unnecesary to use a mount for speed. Rising Colossus uses 5/5 pet slots so if you plan on using that spell you can retain your ability to maneuver swiftly by flying.
When I created my first Gargoyle Mage, I found that LRC Gargoyle armor was in limited supply. You also need to remember that they will not be able to equip certain items that are readily available for Humans. Thanks to Imbuing, custom jewelry and armor can be crafted for Gargoyles which rivals the best Human Mage suits available. At present, it’s pretty easy to find a wide variety of crafted Gargoyle armor. And the devs have added several Gargoyle-only artifacts that can compliment various skills.
Like every character template, there is no “perfect” Mage. I have developed Mages with specialized skills based on what and where they fight. In UO, any character that tries to generalize in a number of skills usually ends up being mediocre at all of them. Decide what your character’s strengths are and focus on them. If you role-play, your character history may also dictate what skills you need. The most important thing, have fun!
If you want to learn more about the specific benefits of the various skills mentioned in this post, I recommend a visit to the UO Guide.