The Wizard has a long-standing tradition in Dungeons & Dragons games
as the squishy specialist with his head full of strange, powerful magic.
By carefully tailoring his spell list, he can serve as the party's buffer,
nuker or primary crowd-controller, achieving things with words and
gestures that the other core classes can only dream about. Of course, the
Wizard has always had some built-in limitations - in early editions, the
class was restricted to just a few races, but even when that restriction
was lifted, they were still limited to simple weapons and clothing instead
of armor. And even 4th Edition Wizards have the smallest pool of Hit
Points of any class.
The Control Wizard unleashed in Neverwinter
during this past beta weekend carries on the tradition of the specialist,
but places the emphasis mostly on damage-dealing and crowd control. At the
lower levels, the Control Wizard doesn't feel like a particularly strong
soloing class - at least, not compared to the Guardian
Fighter with his iron-wall defenses, or to the Devoted
Cleric with his healing abilities. But in the right hands, the
Control Wizard can dominate his enemies, dictate the pace and flow of
battles and outmanouevre his foes with quick wits and even quicker feet.
Control Wizard Class Overview
As implied by the name, this is a class focused on enemy control. This is
less evident in solo play, where the Control Wizard may want to focus more
on damage-dealing, but it really factors in during group play. And really,
since crowd-control and damage-dealing are not mutually exclusive things
for the Control Wizard, the shift in focus is not really that severe.
Crowd control is one of the core elements of the Control Wizard, but it
may not be the kind of CC you are used to from other games. There are no
super-long mezzes that are easily broken by overzealous melee combatants
spamming AOE attacks. Instead, the Control Wizard uses cold-based attacks
to slow enemy movement, and to briefly root them in place while he opens
up a bit more distance. This is, after all, an "action-MMO" with a
particular focus on the "action" part, and making your enemy take a nap is
not very "action-y."
At early levels, this kind of control doesn't feel very effective. Ray
of Frost has significant ramp-up time before it roots the enemy
in place, and the enemy has closed to melee range by the time it has
ramped up enough to root him in place. Powers with pushback effects, like
Repel or Ice Storm, do decent damage
and hurl the enemy back a good distance, but they usually get right back
on their feet and charge back into melee right away.
Essentially, the "control" part of the Control Wizard boils down to
giving yourself enough time to channel powerful spells or ramp up weak
ones. A strong mob tossed back by a Repel will take a bit of time to close
back into melee range, and that's enough time to build 3 or so stacks of Chill
from Ray of Frost, which should slow him down enough to give you time to
bump back with a Teleport and build up another stack or two.
Of course, there's a right way and a wrong way to use CC skills. Repel is
great for soloing because it rams the enemy away and prevents them from
hitting you for a precious few seconds... but that's exactly what makes it
a terrible skill for a group fight. It blasts enemies out of hot-spot
area-effect attacks and moves them out of the range of the melee fighters,
who then have to chase them down and corral them back up. Of course, Repel
can be used to push enemy mobs into spike-filled pits as well, so it's not
entirely useless in a group.
Chill, Arcane Mastery and Spell Mastery
The Chill effect is a stacking debuff applied
by most of the Control Wizard's cold-based magical attacks. As it builds
up, the target develops a thick layer of ice on his legs, and moves
progressively slower. Chill peaks at 6 stacks, and if the target is pushed
beyond that cap, he is frozen in place. Not all Chill-stacking methods
will end up freezing the target in place, however - Ray of Frost and Icy
Terrain will do it, but Chilling Cloud will
not. There are other reasons to stack Chill besides the slowing/freezing
effect. Some Encounter and Daily spells, like Conduit of Ice,
are more effective against targets affected by Chill, and do additional
Arcane Mastery works in a similar manner, but
this is a buff applied to the caster rather than a debuff to the target.
Casting Magic Missile repeatedly stacks up the Arcane
Mastery buff on the Control Wizard, which causes a number of Encounter and
Daily spells to have additional, more powerful effects. This is especially
true of Encounter spells placed in the Spell Mastery slot.
The Spell Mastery slot is the left-most skill
slot, mapped to the Tab key by default. Normal Encounter skills in the
three standard slots (mapped to Q, E and R) will have normal effects on
their targets, modified by stacks of Chill or Arcane Mastery as indicated
in the skills' descriptions. Skills placed in the Spell Mastery slot
(which unlocks in the late-teen levels) have additional effects.
For example, in a regular Encounter skill slot, Chill Strike
unleashes a powerful blast of cold against a single target, adding a stack
of Chill and rooting the target in place momentarily. When moved to the
Spell Mastery slot, however, it does a burst of area damage centered
around the target, striking adjacent enemies. Another example: Icy Terrain
is centered on the caster when placed in a regular slot, but when moved to
the Spell Mastery slot, it turns into a ranged ability centered on the
I spent most of my game with Steal Time in the Spell
Mastery slot, partly for the run speed boost, but also because I wasn't
aware that this was the Spell Mastery slot until very late in the game.
Had I clued in earlier, I would probably have put something else there
instead. But I got used to that burst of speed after slowing everyone
down, so I kept Steal Time there until the server went down.
The clever Control Wizard realizes that he is not meant to take a heavy
sustained beating. Let the big, muscle-bound fighters with their heavy
shields and massive Hit Point pools take care of that. The goal of the
Control Wizard is to strike remotely, and to keep his distance from the
bloodthirsty sword-slinging foe. And what better way to accomplish this
than by using magic?
Teleporting is the key to the Control
Wizard's survival. This is the class's Shift-key power - holding Shift and
pressing one of the direction buttons, or double-tapping a direction key,
causes the Control Wizard to wink out of existence in a puff of purple
smoke and reappear a short distance away in a puff of green smoke. While
the less-clever classes may roll around in the dirt or physically exert
themselves to the point of exhaustion to avoid taking damage, the wily
Control Wizard just beams himself to a safe distance.
This skill functions almost identically to the Trickster
Rogue's dodge ability. It doesn't beam the Control Wizard across the
room, but bumps him just a short distance - often just far enough to bump
him out of the range of a big area attack. It may take a lot of practice
to master this technique, and it makes the Control Wizard a very
active-feeling class, but since the class has very limited defenses, it's
a matter of do-or-die.
Teleporting requires Stamina, and the Control
Wizard has about 4 quick-succession teleports before he runs out. The
Stamina meter is the not-so-obvious chevron at the top of the glowing
amber icosahedron in the top center of the toolbar. Stamina builds back up
fairly quickly, and it doesn't need to refill all the way to 100% after
being drained like the Guardian Fighter's Stamina bar does. Still, you
will want to space your teleports out fairly carefully - if you can
side-step safely out of an attack, do that instead, and save the teleports
for the larger, faster attacks.
Just remember, though - you can't possibly avoid every attack, and the
Control Wizard is not built to withstand a lot of physical punishment.
Stock way up on healing potions, because you're probably going to need
Control Wizards are the "glass cannon" of Neverwinter, complete with the
cannonball-like orb that serves as their weapon. The orb floats just above
the Control Wizard's right shoulder, seemingly held in place by the
owner's telepathic command. That seems to be the only explanation for the
character's monk-like stance - he is constantly focused on keeping his orb
afloat. The offhand implement is a talisman, which is essentially just a
stat-booster with no combat stats or visual effects.
Gear-wise, I went primarily with Power for this beta build. DPS felt a
bit low - particularly at lower levels - and the Power attribute on gear
helps with that a bit, as it increases all outgoing damage. I probably
should have also stacked Critical Strike, but the gear that I found with
Critical Strike buffs had lousy everything else.
Instead, I went with Life Steal, which turned out to be not as useful as
I had hoped it would be. I did see healing happen, particularly with
channeled skills like Ray of Frost or long barrages of Magic Missile, but
it never amounted to more than maybe 5 points per hit, at most. These
little pips add up over time, but when boss monsters are hitting for over
1000 points with their special attacks, even a steady stream of 1's and
2's takes a very long time to be worth anything.
I did not notice a lot of enemies resisting the effects of my Control
Wizard's spells - likely because I rolled high Intelligence (INT) and
Charisma (CHA) scores. Be aware, however, that bosses often have inherent
immunities to certain crowd-control effects, and the combos that worked
well elsewhere may fail if they rely heavily on that.
Tips & Tricks
Some spell and skill combinations have good synergy, and it may take a
lot of practice and tweaking to find the right sets and combos that best
suit your playstyle. It kind of depends on whether you favor the "control"
aspect of the class, or the damage-dealing parts.
Solo play relies very heavily on keeping some distance between you and
your targets. The chief issue with this is, the Control Wizard can't
attack while on the move. If he's attacking, he is rooted in place. And
because so many of the tougher enemies have knockback and stun attacks
which interrupt long casting inductions, this can be problematic. For the
sake of survival, it is best policy to employ cheap hit-and-run tactics:
start from max distance, pop an Encounter spell, follow up with Magic
Missile or Ray of Frost until the enemy gets close, teleport away, pop
another Encounter skill, teleport again, MM/RoF, rinse, repeat. This style
of play significantly decreases the class's DPS and may not appeal to
every player, but it does make the class more challenging than something
like the Guardian Fighter, who can often just stand there with his shield
raised and soak up the enemy's assaults.
This gets much easier in the mid-teens, when the player gets his first
companion. I went with a Man-at-Arms, who was a reasonably effective melee
tank and was able to hold enemy aggro while I stood way back and rained
icy death on the enemy. This allowed me a lot more freedom to experiment
with interesting spell synergies, and was much closer to the group-combat
When running without a pet, I would start multi-target fights by singling
out a weak mob with Chill Strike, which is often enough to kill
standard-strength mobs outright, but if they still had a sliver of Hit
Points left, I could finish them off quickly with Magic Missile or Ray of
Frost. After the opening assault, I would drop an Icy Terrain at my feet,
followed by a Conduit of Ice on the strongest attacker. This is sort of a
"set it and forget it" combo. The Icy Terrain creates an area-damage
hotspot that also stacks the Chill debuff on any enemy within it, and the
Conduit of Ice deals area damage over time which scales up with each stack
of Chill. It's often enough to take out two or three standard mobs
clustered around a central point (my pet, say).
For single-target fights, you will want to alternate between stacking
Chill and Arcane Mastery while staying on the move. Start at max range,
open with Ray of Frost for one stack of Chill, then a 3-round burst of
Magic Missile for a stack of Arcane Mastery. Teleport away, blast with
another Ray of Frost (or a strong Encounter attack like Chill Strike),
move again, another salvo of Magic Missile, move again.
For group content, a different skill set might work better.
Theoretically, the Control Wizard shouldn't need to worry so much about
teleporting around the room to stay alive, so he can place more focus on
less-lethal debuffs and long-channel skills.
I didn't find Entangling Force to be particularly
effective for solo play, but it would be great in a dungeon - use it
against an enemy caster as an interrupt. Ray of Enfeeblement
is also better for group content where debuffs are handy for the rest of
the group, than for solo play where your limited selection of Encounter
spells is best filled with high-damage attacks.
One thing I saw a lot during my group runs was Control Wizards using
their huge knockback attacks at inappropriate times. Situational awareness
is beneficial for every class type, but when you have skills that can
create problems for the entire rest of the group, it's even more important
to know when to use them and when to hold them back. Some examples:
- The group's melee tank tends to want to wrangle and corral groups of
mobs so that they are all in front of and facing him. When he manages to
accomplish this, it is not a good idea for the Control Wizard to blast
them all away with Repel, because the tank will just have to do all that
- When another Control Wizard in the group throws down his Icy Terrain
and Conduit of Ice to take out a big group of weak mobs, it is unwise to
knock all the enemies out of the damage zone. A non-knockback stun like
Oppressive Force, or an AOE slow like Steal Time, is
the better choice here.
- If the Control Wizard is slightly above level for an instance and his
Ice Storm is powerful enough to kill standard-strength enemies outright,
it is probably acceptable to use it against waves of weak adds during a
boss fight. It is not a good idea to use it as an opener against a group
of strong or elite mobs.
When it came time to choose my first companion/pet, I saw no reason to go
with anything other than the Man-at-Arms. The healer companion is not an
effective choice because the Control Wizard is not built to withstand a
long, sustained beating anyway. The wizard companion would be redundant
and not likely terribly helpful for boss fights and such. I considered the
dog for a moment, but it's a single-target "striker" and not an
aggro-magnet. The melee tank pet was an easy choice to make.
I found that he would typically survive to about halfway through a
dungeon-boss fight, and from there I would be on my own. With the handy
teleport ability (and depending on the boss in question), I would be able
to revive him a few times during boss fights. If I timed it right, I could
wait for the boss to start a long attack induction, teleport over to my
fallen soldier and get him back on his feet before the boss closed in,
which would allow me to open up some distance between me and the boss and
quaff a few potions to top up my health. Then the soldier would die again,
and I would go back to my shoot-jump-shoot-jump tactic.
Picking a paragon path at level 30 will depend on the player's preferred
play style. The Oppressor path enhances control
abilities, extending the durations of stuns and roots and dazes. This is
most ideal for group play, where debuffs and CC have the most benefit. The
Thaumaturge path boosts raw damage output,
allowing the Control Wizard to hit bigger DPS numbers and making solo play
more engaging. The Renegade path affects spell
synergies, increasing the effectiveness of Arcane Mastery and Chill
benefits. This is for the people who employ the good old "Grease + Burning
Hands" tactic in tabletop games, making good use of spell combos for extra
How was your experience with the Control Wizard during the beta weekend?
Share your tips, tricks and other insights in our comments!
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