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I'm building a 1st level human wizard for my first 4e campaign. As of now, my at-wills are Winged Horde (targets Will), Unraveling Dart (targets Fortitude) and Arc Lightning (targets Reflex).

I was happy with this range of selection, until I came across Howling Wall (targets Fortitude). I like the idea of pushing monsters around to better suit my and my companions needs, but the only spell I would be willing to trade out would be Arc Lightning, because that one is a little basic.

My question is: how often do creatures with high Fort and Will and a low Reflex come up in campaigns? Is repositioning enemies with a Fortitude attack worth not being able to target Reflex, or should I keep what I have in order to maximize my efficiency against a larger range of enemy weaknesses?

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Do you want to be versatile in combat? –  okeefe Apr 9 '13 at 6:16
    
@okeefe I'm pretty sure his question is on a different level, about the value of being versatile in this way. –  BESW Apr 9 '13 at 6:17
    
@BESW Not necessarily. Maybe he just wants to be a powerhouse with powers that affect, say, only two defenses. That can be viable as well. –  okeefe Apr 9 '13 at 6:22

2 Answers 2

Howling Wall is probably not a good choice.

There are 2 reasons why Howling Wall is likely to not help very much. First, low-fortitude enemies are less common than low-will or low-reflex enemies. Howling Wall is simply going to miss enemies more often than Winged Horde or Arc Lightning.

The second reason goes even deeper into monster statistics. You're interested in Howling Wall's repositioning potential? Well who's worth repositioning? Artillery & controllers have ranged attacks, so they don't really care exactly where they stand, while lurkers & skirmishers tend to have the mobility to just ignore whatever repositioning you do. Only soldiers & brutes are melee-focused (so they actually care where they stand) and lack the mobility to ignore being repositioned. Against soldiers & brutes, targeting fortitude is a terrible idea. Low-fortitude soldiers are very rare, and you can probably count on one hand the number of published brutes with low fortitude (by epic tier, most brutes' fortitude defense is higher than their AC). This means that Howling Wall is going to have an especially low hit rate against the enemies you're most likely to want to use it against.

If you really want to swap out Arc Lightning, I would look at Freezing Burst, Thunderwave (which, while also a fortitude-targeting repositioning power, is a more useful shape, has more forced movement, and has the easily-optimized thunder keyword), or Phantom Bolt (a will-targeting repositioning power; not much distance on it, though there are ways to improve that, but the psychic keyword opens up Psychic Lock in paragon tier).

If you can tell us what kind of wizard you're making, we can make even better recommendations for at-wills. For reference, here's the kinds of wizards:

  • Arcanist (from PHB1; we would want to know what secondary stat you're boosting, wis/dex/con)
  • Mage (introduced in Heroes of Fallen Lands; we would want to know which school you picked, enchantment/evocation/illusion/necromancy/nethermancy/pyromancy)
  • Sha'ir (from Heroes of Elemental Chaos)
  • Witch (from Heroes of the Feywild; do not pick this)
  • Bladesinger (from Neverwinter Campaign Setting; do not pick this)
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This is a much better answer than my own. I hope it sees the upvotes it deserves. –  KRyan Apr 9 '13 at 18:33

Yes.

As @ObliviousSage mentioned in comments, not all defenses are made equally, and some are more common than others. Actually going through the books and figuring out which defense “wins” seems very meta-gamey to me and probably isn’t appropriate at most tables, but this is not the only point.

The more important point is that one of your major advantages as a wizard is that you have a relatively easy time targeting your foes’ weakest defenses. There is definitely a lot to be said for paying attention to the spread of defenses that you can target, and making sure you have a good answer or three to any creature who has a specific vulnerability.

However, I would say that ObliviousSage’s actual answer (added after mine) has a great deal more information about the sorts of monsters that have certain weaknesses and strengths, which is extremely relevant here. I recommend his answer highly.

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Nice. Since he's specifically asked for it, can you provide suggestions on how to rank the defenses from most to least commonly encountered in his campaign (which may not be the same as most to least common overall in the monster lists)? –  BESW Apr 9 '13 at 6:15
    
Well, there is the Shoelessinsight’s Bestiary Statistics, which seems to indicate that targeting Fortitude is a bad idea, and targeting Reflexes is a good one. Not sure if we can assume they are spread te same in 4E though, do you know if there is a similar thing? –  Cristol.GdM Apr 9 '13 at 15:57
    
In my experience as a player in 4e NADs match up with monster role/appearance. Soldiers have generally good NADs all around. Brutes have high fort and low ref and will, skirmishers have high ref, for example. Generally what defense an attack targets also tends to synch up with what it does so fort targeted attacks tend to force movement and prone, Ref targeted attacks just do lots of damage (like vs ac attacks) and will attacks daze, dominate, and stun. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Apr 9 '13 at 16:20

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