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'Blasting' in 3.5e, dealing damage using spells, is seen as inferior to battlefield control, buffing, and debuffing - in that it uses up more spell slots for less effect, takes longer to work, and is resisted by more types of monsters and enemies.

I know why this is, and that isn't the focus of this question.

I'd like to know what some builds, combinations of feats, classes, spells and magic items are that make blasting competitive with other spellcasters focused on things other than damage. Specifically looking for builds that;

  • Overcome the weaknesses inherent to blasting (low damage, resistances, immunities, SR, touch AC)
  • Maintain a degree of utility and aren't 'one trick ponies'
  • Directly do damage with spells, aimed at taking enemies out of combat as fast as possible, as many times per day as possible
  • Are playable from as low level as possible
  • Have some degree of 'flair' or 'theme' in their design

Both complete builds and simple suggestions or lists of usable/competitive elements for a 'blaster' spellcaster are both acceptable as answers. The one non-negotiable factor is that the suggestions or build must be competitive with relatively unoptimized spellcasters who are not blasters in terms of effectiveness.

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3 Answers 3

The basis for optimized blasting in 3.5 is the mailman. Specifically, the goal is to have an extremely reliable nuke, that happens to deal enough damage to kill anything. Ultimately, maximizing damage isn’t the hard part, it’s making sure nothing is immune to that damage.

Force damage is usually a good starting point, since force is very rarely resisted. For these purposes, wings of flurry and manyjaws seem to come up a lot in conversation; wings of flurry, in particular, is a devastating sorcerer-only spell that deals d6/level force damage with no maximum.

For things that are force-immune, going with fire or cold, and then habitually using Searing Spell or Piercing Cold, works wonders. While fire and cold resistance/immunity are the most common energy defenses out there, with Searing Spell or Piercing Cold, at least 50% of your damage is going through, yes, even then. As far as I know, nothing in the game is immune to the special super-fire/super-cold damage that these metamagic feats give your spells.

And of course, you want ranged touch attack spells that don’t offer saving throws and are SR: No. This is getting you pretty close to a 95% chance of killing any opponent as a standard action.

The key thing to realize here is that we are talking about one or two very carefully chosen blasting spells. This “blaster” really doesn’t know many blasts. No wasting time with different energy flavors, because the force and super-fire/super-cold damage we’re working with is nigh unresistable. No grabbing different AoEs, because AoE spells allow Reflex saves and usually allow SR, and those are too unreliable; we’re going for the reliable single-target kill.

And that leaves all of our other spells for, ya know, everything else. Utility, you’ll have in spades.

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Example of good ranged touch attack spells would be Orb of Acid. Ranged touch, no SR, save only against the secondary effect and not the damage. It's mentioned in the link, but it's probably worth mentioning directly here. –  Tridus Jul 2 at 14:36
    
@Tridus but it's acid. While it's one of the better orbs because of the secondary effect, it'ss resistable. Orb of Fire/Cold aren't, because of the aforementioned feats. Orbs, however, only do 15d maximum. My fire spell of choice would be Combustion, made ranged with metamagic. –  Zachiel Jul 2 at 14:45
    
@Zachiel It does depend on level, but there are quite a few options, as discussed in that thread. –  KRyan Jul 2 at 14:48

If you're looking to be a blaster, your best option is most likely going to actually not be in the Wizard / Sorcerer group of classes at all.

Psions are pretty much second to none when it comes to blasting. They have the choice of four different elements they can manifest, Cold, Electricity, Fire, and Sonic; which change either the type of save of the spell, increase the damage, or ignore hardness depending on the type of element you choose to blast with, and there are tons of spell effects that you can use to break the action economy.

They also have the ability to augment powers to increase their damage and DC, and all of their abilities are pulled from one pool of points instead of individual spell levels.

And late game when you get into 6th level powers and above you get access to abilities like Tornado blast, for untyped damage with additional damage with a ranged touch and additional damage that can be halved with a reflex (No SR/PR).

There's also Crystal shard ( Instantaneous creation ) to bypass antimagic / antipsionic fields which also doesn't have SR/PR or a save, and Crystalstorm which always deals 1d4 damage per power point invested with a chance to deal Con damage ( Unfortunately non-augmentable reflex save ) which also doesn't confer SR/PR. ( Though you could probably houserule in an augment )

Linked power, Schism, Anticipatory strike, Fission, Temporal Acceleration, and Syncronicity are powers that you can use to completely blow apart any situation and make encounters happen on your terms. Augment Temporal Acceleration and go Nova. Massive damage.

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Temporal Acceleration is worthless for a direct blaster, since any blast you cast during the extra rounds it gives has no effect on any target but yourself. –  Matthew Najmon Jul 8 at 15:56
    
You just have to get creative with it. By Temporal acceleration: "A power you manifest that affects an area and has a duration longer than the remaining duration of your temporal acceleration has its normal effect on creatures in the area once this power ends. You can either use the Delay power feat and delay all your damage until five rounds pass, set the length of temporal acceleration to five rounds so that it goes off as temporal acceleration ends, or use Energy Current + Solicit Psycrystal + Energy Current. Those spells have a duration of Concentration up to 1 round per level. –  Sandwich Jul 8 at 18:01

The Archmage prestige class (DMG) makes a nice blaster, although it does take some time/effort to get into. But I've had lots of fun playing one once I got there.

It has a number of nice High Arcana abilities available. My favorites for a blaster are:

Mastery of Elements The archmage can alter an arcane spell when cast so that it utilizes a different element from the one it normally uses. This ability can only alter a spell with the acid, cold, fire, electricity, or sonic descriptor. The spell’s casting time is unaffected. The caster decides whether to alter the spell’s energy type and chooses the new energy type when he begins casting. This ability costs one 8th-level spell slot.

Mastery of Shaping The archmage can alter area and effect spells that use one of the following shapes: burst, cone, cylinder, emanation, or spread. The alteration consists of creating spaces within the spell’s area or effect that are not subject to the spell. The minimum dimension for these spaces is a 5-foot cube. Furthermore, any shapeable spells have a minimum dimension of 5 feet instead of 10 feet. This ability costs one 6th-level spell slot.

With those features, you can blast with your friends in the way, and you can blast with whichever type of energy the creature is weak against.

To bypass spell resistance, the feats Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration come in handy

A quickened True Strike cast before a spell that requires a ranged touch attack assures that it will hit.

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2  
As a DM, sonic delayed fireballs with friendly holes were my nightmare. –  Zachiel Jul 6 at 20:20
    
It would be helpful if people gave a reason when they downvoted. –  PurpleVermont Jul 8 at 18:36

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