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After studying up on the wizards forums and reading the class 'handbooks' there (as well as getting pummeled to near death in the last few combat encounters in my group), I've begun to consider using the powers I have that have debilitating effects on enemies to give me a possible edge against them, versus the 'blaster' approach I've been using of going for high damage each turn. I've avoided using them so far as they don't do lots of damage compared to my fire attacks.

For a little background, I'm using a Level 7 Tiefling Mage (Pyromancer-style) with 20 Intelligence, and focusing on max accuracy by way of a +2 Accurate staff with the Accurate Staff and Staff Expertise feats, as well as the Infernal Prince theme and Hellfire Blood feat for my fire attacks, giving me +12/+14 atk roll bonuses. The powers I took that are status-inflicting are: Phantasmal Assault (At-Will), Charm of Misplaced Wrath, Grim Shadow and Fire Sea Travel (Encounter), Horrid Whispers, Sleep and Bigby's Icy Grasp [Immobilizes] (Daily Attack). I also Have a +2 Amulet of Elegy and am thinking of getting an Accurate Earthroot Staff.

I'm currently using a +2 Accurate Defensive Staff to help my defenses. I'm considering getting a Hellfire Staff to boost my melee (just in case), or an Earthroot Staff to complement my Amulet of Elegy to make Sleep and Horrid Whispers that much harder to shrug off. As for DPR, I have Wizard's Fury and want to get Melf's Minute Meteors at Lv. 9 so I can attack 3 times per turn. the damage is not the best, but I like the idea of using an AP to hit 4 times in a single turn.

I'm MC-ing into Sorcerer and want the Sorcerer MC feat to add my +4 DEX mod as extra damage at Paragon, so that will address the increase to damage. I also want to Arcane Admixture Dazzling Ray into a Fire spell for the boosts to accuracy and damage, as well as switch in Deep Shroud for extra defense.

The Mage Wizard can select 2 Encounter powers per level, so that offers some variety. It helps that the DM lets us waive the restrictions on the number of powers we can use per day. I think that's why he makes the monsters so strong in each encounter, so they don't get wiped out easily. The battles have been pretty challenging for my team, hence my interest in status-inflicting powers to hinder them.

We're playing mostly within the Eberron setting, and the DM has a 'I just want everyone to have fun' approach to gaming and rulings, so he's pretty flexible. During the last two battles, we faced an evil Gnome bio-engineer using a giant brutish guy he could ride inside of like a battle-suit, and that guy hit me with a variation of Sleep that targeted my Fortitude. I got the kill shot, but only just before he put me to sleep.

Then we had to fight a pair of assassins who planted a bomb on our airship, and the stronger bugbear one kept trying to kill me with strong melee attacks while I was trying to get the bomb out of the cargo hold so I could throw it overboard (I did, making me the hero :D ), and I stood on the deck and shot down through a cargo hatch at him while the rest of the team (2 rangers - 1 twin sword melee and one archer, and our other wizard - general high damage attacks, our cleric could attend that session) fought the monsters in the hold.

Basically, I want to be able to mess up the monsters using status effects to hinder them and make it harder for them to come after me. The DM has discovered that due to my max accuracy and high-damage fire spells, I'm the strongest attacker, thanks to my high DPR, so I think he's decided to try to take me out of action first, then pick on the rest of the party. He's not really singling me out, but seems to be beginning to prefer to give me a serious challenge in battle. As he said, laughing, when I successfully defended myself with Shield, "Damn. I really hoped that would've killed you."

My question is: Are status-inflicting powers actually worth using, or would it be better to stick with the max damage approach?

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Comments edited into question. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 20 '13 at 1:45

3 Answers 3

It sounds like you have a very acceptable fire-focused intention. I suspect one of the things that is complicating matters is the fact that:

The Mage Wizard can select 2 Encounter powers per level, so that offers some variety. It helps that the DM lets us waive the restrictions on the number of powers we can use per day. I think that's why he makes the monsters so strong in each encounter, so they don't get wiped out easily.

Therefore, much of the normal optimisation advise, which assumes that you're holding to the normal rules starts melting away as the vicious circle of buff and counterbuff begins. (I faced this problem in a "by the rules" game when the DM reacted to the party's increasing optimisation by ramping up monsters, which caused us to optimise more, which...)

From a pragmatic perspective, save ends effects suck. While much of the game is well modelled, there is precious little balance to save ends effects, and the pendulum swings back and forth: standard monsters have little to no defense, but elites and solos become effectively immune as the game design progressed through the monster manuals. It takes a very deft touch in monster creation (if you're creating monsters "from scratch" to respect player agency in the inflicting of status while simply not going "nope!" to either them automatically winning or to them automatically being ignored.)

I, personally, have always enjoyed the more controlly-type controllers, and so my wizards, druids, psions, and invokers have focused on debuffing and forced movement. So long as you rely on effects that are more difficult to shed (either being end of next turn or encounter long) then you can focus on being to reliably land them, rather than inflicting sufficient debuffs to the monster's saving throws (that'll only be countered by the next monster) to maintain the debuff. The same thing is true in the other direction. I've played paladins who granted +9 to saving throws by smiling. This led to the DM completely foregoing the use of save-ends effects until the DM and I agreed to voluntarily limit that feat to a +5 bonus.

My recommendations are:

Nothing is as powerful alone compared to a party that is designed to work together.

Stop focusing on solo optmisation. It's a trap. Instead, try to make sure the party is designed to work together to achieve your desired requirements. Everyone will have more fun, and you're unlikely to bear the brunt of your DM's nerfing alone.

Have a side conversation with your DM: Explore what debuffs he's comfortable with.

Boundary setting is important. If you have a chat over coffee as to what he considers reasonable, you won't find the powers nerfed in the middle of a game. Set up, describe, and agree upon expectations for your character's capabilities such that he knows what to expect (such as to provide you maximum Fun) with the minimum of unpleasant surprises. As 4e is very much combat-as-sport, the joy is in the execution of plans within a chosen narrative (yes, story matters, to provide a need and justification for mechanics) than it is finding unusual solutions to the DM's prepared set-piece battles (many other systems are far far better at simulation).

It's very hard to alter characters in midstream without a retcon. Be honest and do a proper retcon, don't just knudge.

A character is the combination of her parts and their interactions, not just the parts alone. If you're changing a character's rasion d'etre, be honest about it, and change the character completely to fit your new requirements.

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A control Wizard is absolutely a viable approach. There's a reason the Wizard's primary role is controller! My first D&D 4e character ever was a Human Wizard, and throughout the entire Heroic tier I was attacked something like three times -- the enemies were rarely able to attack me, thanks to range, conditions, and forced movement. (I remember one encounter at level 6 against a group of level 11 vampires, where the turn I dropped Hypnotic Pattern every single enemy tried to surround and pummel me... but the HP hit them all and kept them out of range.)

As mentioned, save-ends effects can sometimes be hit-or-miss, as everything has a 55% chance to end the effect at base at the end of the turn, and at EOT you save vs. each effect. The Human's Heroic Effort encounter power Wizard orb class feature (Orb of Imposition? Something like that) helps on that front, as you can reduce it to a 35% chance. (Vision of Death at level 9 can be super nasty if you use Heroic Effort the Orb class feature to make them fail the first save, and have a bunch of strikers in the party!) I don't know if there are any monsters with something like the Warden's Font of Life power, but that would make it even harder. That's not saying save-ends effects are bad, just that you shouldn't rely on them sticking around forever.

Zones aren't generally going to expire early, but as with the fire powers you've already got, you have to be careful with any non-friendly zones (by which I mean, a zone which can adversely affect your allies). Phantom Chasm (level 1 daily) is probably one of my favorite Wizard powers.

Walls are good, but most of them will cut off line-of-sight, which would put enemies out of your range if the wall is between you and them. Illusory Wall doesn't have that problem, but enemies can roll each turn they're adjacent to it to disbelieve the illusion.

Forced Movement is your bread-and-butter, letting you keep enemies near the defender(s) and away from you. (I absolutely loved my Repulsion Armor, which could make me immune to non-reach melee attacks once a day.) Forced Movement does put the "tactical" into D&D's "tactical combat," though -- be aware of where your enemies are going to end up, and how it will affect the battlefield.

Then, of course, you've got other spells to help your allies or protect yourself. Phantom Wolf does both! (+1 to all defenses and help set up flanking for your melee allies)

Also: Make note of errata on your spells, as there are a large number. Some spells become more powerful (Phantom Chasm knocks any enemy prone that enters the zone for the rest of combat), while some become weaker (Visions of Avarice only immobilizes on the turn you cast it).

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Mostly no, on your level the status inflicting powers are not worth it yet. However a lot depends on your party composition and cooperation.

Orbmaster's is clearly superior to the usual effects of Charm of Misplaced Wrath, because of the attack bonus from the fire keyword, the damage, the higher number of targets and the proning. But if you have the party Fighter next to the target of CoMW, it not only hits itself, but gets the Fighter's punishment.

I would not take Grim Shadow no matter what, a squishy target like a wizard should never be close enough to use it. Does not matter what path you choose, control or damage, there are several powers way better than this one. Pinioning Vortex turns off a melee monster for a turn, Maze of Mirrors lower the hitting chances of several monsters, and Shock Sphere deals good damage in a quite good area. None of these are fire or fear powers however, and you do not have any way to make them so before Blade of Summer.

In paragon, with a Githyanki Silver Weapon and Psychic Lock and other options you can deal out great status effects, but nothing much before that.

Long story short, I would go with blasting, and change to Staff of Ruin. From level 11 you might refocus on status effects. I would change the theme also, the fire powers are not good enough, and you have no way to give all powers the fire keyword.

You can only select one encounter power for every slot. Is the fire power the best one, or the second best? No, for most levels. Than it is not good enough.

Ask yourself the question: if you could alter any power to get the +2 from Infernal Prince and Hellfire Blood, would you still pick Grim Shadow or Fire Sea Travel? I would not.

The problem is not with the power selection: the controller wizard is weak in heroic, and the blaster wizard is so much stronger from a genasi with Elemental Empowerment that everything else pales in comparison.

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Andras and John, comments are not for chatting. This discussion has been edited into question and answer. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 19 '13 at 21:55

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