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"Armour... is part of a state of mind... in which you admit the possibility of being hit:" - Cracknut Whirrun



Mage Apocalypse
Picture triple firestorms, tempests and arrows raining down on hapless enemies, trapped before an onslaught of rapid fire attacks on dual haste. Also imagine clusters of enemies, choking on noxious fumes while their companions.... um, explode on them.
 
Welcome to the apocalypse.


Videos
The Awiergan Scrolls: Second Aspect
A Murder of Crows


Introduction
If you don't die, you'll facewipe. This can be a rather all or nothing approach, but where's the fun otherwise?

This is probably one of the most powerful mage setups in the game. It involves the concept of maintaining next to complete crowd control while dealing unopposed maximum damage to them. Basically, if your enemies can never attack, you can afford to put everything into offence. However, this makes your party rather fragile such that any mistakes can quickly lead to bad things happening (i.e. getting lost, people dying, and finding yourself stranded without any pants).

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The Crit-Mage
At the forefront of this merry band is Hawke. Say 'yes' to highest-possible-damage a 'no' to durability. Who needs that anyway?
Boasting the maximum base damage possible and high damage modifers, this build works on the premise of relying on death syphon for your mana needs (rather than using bloodmagic or pumping willpower). This opens up a build where no willpower or constitution is needed, and you won't ever accidentally kill yourself via casting!

The crit-mage has a heavy emphasis on equipment. This and the heavy investment into the spirit tree means that it only truly becomes a 'crit-mage' late game (act 3); although the principles behind it are still there- increasing critical chance and damage will help any type of damage, for any class.

Also note that this mage build can be incorporated outside of this party setup. Simply put, this is the build for the highest possible damage and dps that a mage can do.


Attributes
All into magic until you reach 100 magic (making sure to not waste anything by going over the cap).
After which, all into dexterity.
Points should only be put into constitution if you are finding it much too hard to survive. It shouldn't be necessary.
Willpower is definitely a thing to be avoided, as is cunning; Unless you want a less optimal build don't put any points into them.

With my recommended itemisation you should easily reach 100 magic by the early level 20's. From then on, each level will give you 3% crit chance.


Items (End-Game)
The Apostate's Mask
Gloves of the Champion/Anything*
Aldenon's Vestments
Stalwart Treads

Seven Deadly Cinch/Master Wvyern Hunter's Belt
Four-Fingered Eddie's Lucky Talisman
Puzzle Ring of the Black Fox
The Graven Circle

Total: +26% elemental damage, ~+26-34% critical chance (incl. +attribute), ~+23-32% critical damage, and +8 magic (which means +8% critical chance from pumping dex instead of magic)

Note that the clothing is mostly related to +%elemental damage (and +magic) while the accessories are mostly +crit chance and damage. This is to do with the available gearing options. Also, each point into magic from gear is another more point you can put into increasing critical chance.

*While there are lots of gloves available, they mostly do next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. Ideally you would have a runeslot (for the rune of valiance). This gives other options such as Gauntlets (+%fire and cold), The Hands of Fate (+%spirit), and Gloves of the Winter Crossing.

Alternatively,
Robes of Unblemished Cleanliness
Ring of the Ferryman

These two items will greatly boost your +%fire and lightning damage (total: +58% fire/lightning). However, they don't help your other elements as much as crit modifiers and aldenon's robes;
Also given the +50% fire damage from abilties, improving critical damage (i.e. the graven circle instead of ring of the ferry man) will result in a bigger change in damage modifers (proportionately speaking) and thus a bigger change in damage.

But they might be useful pre-elemental mastery if you're dropping firestorms on everything and want to focus a bit more on fire/lightning staves and spells.


Weapons
Malcolm's Honor
Hawke's Key
Freedom's Promise
Sting (pretty sure the wikia is wrong and it's nature dmg)
Generic Staves with high base damage

Malcolm's honour will be your main go-to staff due to its very useful +3 all attributes and +%critical chance. Additionally, spirit is relatively powerful against almost everything (besides immunities) which means that it'll be sufficient for most fights (unless you want to switch to hit elemental weaknesses).

One of the main alternatives is Hawke's Key, especially if you get it late game. It may not give quite as much critical chance or +attributes but it can have the highest base damage.
Freedom's promise will probably only be better against fire-weaknesses but might be handy if you want the biggest, baddest firestorm on the block.
I actually haven't really looked into Sting (mota) yet, but it is the best end-game staff with a runeslot. It deals nature damage which isn't all that helpful, so maybe you could be generous and give it to merrill.

Generic staves can be pretty powerful late-game and will be your main source for staves for cold damage, and just generally for your companions. Having a decently powerful staff of each element for each mage is useful for dealing with weaknesses etc.


Abilities
Hawke (in no particular order)
There are only a few spells that are essential to this build. These mainly come from three trees:

CREATION TREE

 - Heroic Aura: +10% damage and +10% crit Chance
 - Haste: +50% attack speed
 - Heal: (Emergency) healing

SPIRIT TREE
 - Spirit Mastery: +25% spirit damage and +10% crit chance
 - Death Syphon: +5% health and +10% mana per corpse 
 - Spirit Bolt: Reasonable damage and single target CC, especially when used as CCC
 - Walking Bomb: Nice pyrotechnics- but with exploding people instead. May require pause-play

FORCE MAGE
 - Gravitic Ring: Unparalleled crowd control
 - Pull of the Abyss: Useful for clustering enemies (and destealthing)
 - Fist of the Maker: Useful for destealthing with reasonable damage but with friendly fire
 - Telekinetic Blast: Useful for destealthing without friendly fire

Elemental Tree
 - Firestorm: Most powerful aoe spell in the game
 - Winter's Grasp: Good single target/small radius CC and damage with brittle setup
 - Cone of Cold: Close-range CC, damage, brittle setup and destealthing
 - Pyromancer: +25% fire damage
 - Elemental Mastery: +25% fire and cold damage, also improves brittling


Although the elemental tree is by far the most powerful (against non-immune enemies), it is possible to go into other trees or use a less specialised approach to your spell casting. The primal tree provides a reasonable alternative.  If you have points to spare, Entropy has a nice single-point debuff.


So overall,
Hawke will have ~60% critical chance, ~40% critical damage, +76% fire damage, +51% cold and spirit damage and +26% nature and electricity damage from abilities and gear.
The attribute distribution means on top of that you have the maximum base damage and an additional amount of critical chance towards the end game.

So by level 24, you should have a ~75% critical chance to deal either:
 - max base dmg*190%*151% = 287% max base damage if the modifiers modify the modified amount, or
 - max base dmg + max base damage*90% + max base damage*51% = 241% max base damage if they are applied seperately

In either case, that's a quite a lot! And on top of that there is a further +10-20% damage from heroic aura and heroic offense. So as you can see, a crit-build is vastly superior damage-wise to a purely elemental build.


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Party Setup


Warning: This Setup is extremely fragile. Not for the faint of heart.

Note: While this is the primary setup I use for my crit-mage but by no means the only setup. Using the crit-mage build for Hawke and other less glassy versions or setups is still very viable.


Level 24

Hawke (magic --> dex)
16 str                  6 fortitude
33 dex               75% critical chance
100 mag           100% magic resistance
21 cun               89% critical damage
18 will                285 mana
16 con               130 hp

91 base damage
100/100/85 attack


Role: Damager, Controller, and (emergency) Healer

As the forcemage of the party, Hawke is responsible for clustering enemies and the majority of group crowd control, usually done together via pull of the abyss + gravitic ring. Additionally, Hawke needs to destealth enemies, provide haste, and just deal the most damage in general. Healing should be unnecessary in most situations as the enemies hardly get the chance to deal damage (and Anders/potions cover most eventualities).



Merrill (con --> magic)
14 str                  4 fortitude
18 dex               20% critical chance
80 mag              80% magic resistance
18 cun               66% critical damage
16 will                230 mana
22 con               218 hp

81 base damage
100/100/85 attack


Role: Damager, Debilitator (and Off-Tank)

Funnily enough, Merrill is the most durable member of the party as she can hold sustains (i.e. rock armour) without impacting on her casting pool. However, it's probably wise to give her some additional health so doesn't kill herself via casting. I would aim at just over ~200hp and putting the rest into magic.
She is responsible for dropping aoes on enemies and providing single target CC and damage. On the side she can debuff enemies and hold sustains (i.e. elemental weapons).

Abilities: Click Here


Tactics:
1. Self: Health <50% - Deactivate:Bloodmagic
2. Self: Health <25% - Use:Health Potion
3. Anders: Health <50% - Barrier
4. Ally: Health <25% - Barrier
5. Self: Any - Activate: Rock Armour
6. Self: Any - Activate: Elemental Weapons
7. Enemy: Target at medium to long range - Firestorm
8. Enemy: Target at medium to long range - Tempest
9. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Use current condition for next tactic
10. Enemy: DISORIENTED - Stone Fist
11. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Winter's Grasp
12. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Hex of Torment
13. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Use current condition for next tactic
14. Enemy: BRITTLE - Jump to: 17 
15. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Petrify
16. Enemy: Clustered with at least three enemies - Chain Lightning
17. Enemy: Target at short range - Stone Fist
18. Self: Health >= 50% - Activate: Bloodmagic
19. Enemy: Attacking Anders - Attack
20. Enemy: Target of Hawke - Attack


Anders (magic)
13 str                  3 fortitude
13 dex               13% critical chance
90 mag              90% magic resistance
14 cun               54% critical damage
15 will                248 mana
13 con               138 hp

86 base damage
100/100/85 attack


Role: Damager and Healer

Anders is the most fragile member of the party but probably the most powerful mage after hawke. He gets up to +30% damage from his person tree, but the -50% damage resistance and immunity to healing isn't much fun. Since he is going to be fragile no matter how much constitution you give him, I find it best to just ignore any pretense at durability and give him full magic.
His main job is to provide perma-haste (via martyr and swift justice), drop aoes on enemies and provide single target CC and damage. As a secondary role he is reponsible for healing anyone who gets injured (ideally he shouldn't have to).

Abilities: Click Here


Tactics:
1. Self: Health <50% - Deactivate:Vengeance
2. Self: Health <50% - Use:Health Potion
3. Self: Mana <10% - Use:Lyrium Potion
4. Self: Health <50% - Heal
5. Ally: Health <50% - Heal
6. Self: At least one enemy is alive - Haste
7. Self: Health >= 50% - Activate: Vengeance
8. Enemy: Target at medium to long range - Firestorm
9. Enemy: Target at medium to long range - Tempest
10. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Use current condition for next tactic
11. Enemy: DISORIENTED - Stone Fist
12. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Winter's Grasp
13. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Use current condition for next tactic
14. Enemy: BRITTLE - Jump to: 17
15. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Petrify
16. Enemy: Clustered with at least three enemies - Chain Lightning
17. Enemy: Target at short range - Stone Fist
18. Self: Health >= 75% - Martyr



Varric (dex --> cun)
16 str                  6 fortitude
62 dex               100% critical chance
13 mag              11% magic resistance
38 cun               132% critical damage
14 will                145 mana
14 con               145 hp

165 base damage
100/100/98


Role: Damager(?), Debilitator(?), CCC setups

Not sure whether those labels also apply to rogues, but basically Varric provides lots of single target dps, adds to the mess of aoes dropping on enemies and sets up disorients for the mages to get some CCC's off. Additionally he has an archer's lance CCC and a useful debuff, brand (which actually brings hawke's crit chance to 100% at later levels).
It's best to pump Varric's dexterity until he reaches 100% critical chance. When you reach it, start to pump his cunning instead.
Bianca will be the best spot for the primeval lyrium rune in this party setup (as most staves don't have rune slots), which will turn him into a utter machine gun (dual haste+bianca's song+well oiled+primeval lyrium rune = ~160% attack speed or more; not too sure how much the rune gives)

Abilities: Click Here


Tactics:
1. Self: Health <25% - Use:Health Potion
2. Self: Stamina <10% - Use:Stamina Draught
3. Self: Any - Activate:Bianca's Song
4. Self: Any - Activate:Speed
5. Enemy: Target at medium to long range - Hail of Arrows
6. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Use current condition for next tactic
7. Enemy: BRITTLE - Archer's Lance
8. Enemy: Clustered with at least four enemies - Fatiguing Fog
9. Enemy: Clustered with at least three enemies - Confusion
10. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Brand
11. Enemy: BRITTLE - Bursting Arrow (if upgraded)
12. Enemy: Target rank is Elite or higher - Use current condition for next tactic
13. Enemy: Health <50% - Pinning Shot
14. Enemy: Target at short range - Kickback
15. Self: Being attacked by a melee attack - Rush
16. Self: Surrounded by at least three enemies - Rush 
17. Enemy: Attacking Anders - Attack
18. Enemy: Target of Hawke - Attack





Thanks for reading.
I'll be happy to address any criticisms, ideas, or questions.


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Old (and defunct) Pre-patch Builds
This was a guide to some of the more experimental mage-builds I looked at. 
Now that the crit-mage has been updated to the latest patch, there's not much point keeping the old version. 
So here is the armoured mage build which involves making your mage tank enough to survive anything (largely unnecessary post patch). 


Contents
a) Early-Game Armoured Mage
B) Middle-to-Late-Game Armoured Mage
c) Rogue-Armoured Crit-Mage
d) Late-Game Crit-Mage


Videos (for reminiscing)
Rogue-Armoured Crit-Mage: 
Deep Roads Dragon Speed Challenge (terrible video quality)
Act 2 Critical Mage Compilation (series of random act2 fights)
Nexus Golem Gauntlet (angry, angry fenris)

Robe Armoured Not-so-many-Crits mage:
Varnell (Exploding angry mobs)
Brekker (Aveline is amazing)
Gauntlet (Isabela is incredible)

Late Game Rogue-Armoured Crit-Mage:
Act3 Crit-Mage Compilation




Differences Pre and Post-patch

Patch 1.03 changed many things.

Changes relevant to mage hawke:
- Improved Bloodmagic = +0.25 instead of +1 ratio
- Secondary Attribute Reduced
- Rune of Valiance = +2 instead of +7
- Knockback is non-existent

Changes to Spells:
- Haste works
- Firestorm + Fireball have 40% more damage
- Walking Bomb = 50% instead of 100%
- Chain Reaction = 300% instead of 600%
- Death Syphon is better
- Changes to Entropy
- Spirit Mastery = 10% crit chance instead of 5%
- Spirit Strike = 300% instead of 200%
- Blood Slave = 75% instead of 100%
- One Foot In = Larger radius + 100% hp as damage instead of 10%
- Paralysing Haemorrhage = 500% instead of 900%
- Fist of the Maker = 50% more damage

Note: I am not discussing spirit healer as I simply don't know enough about spirit healers.


Changes relevant to party setup:
- No melee friendly-fire from autoattacks
- Claymore's stagger chance = 10% instead of 40%
- Sunder is bugged + 20% chance instead of 50%
- Disorientating Shot disorientates + Pinning shot pins
- Brand gives 25% crit chance instead of 10%
- Shield Defence draws threat
- Immovable gives 8% per hit instead of 2%


Changes to Strategies/Setups
1. Haste
Well, firstly and most importantly haste is working!! That's almost enough to excuse the horrible arbitary changes that came along with it *rant rant rant*.
This means that having dual haste is of paramount importance. This means that hawke should invest in the creation tree and that anders is back and either merrill or aveline needs to be kicked out of the party.

2. Bloodmagic Ratios
While lots of people seem to think this is the end of the world it really isn't. I've been running my low hp hawke on a 2:1 (or 3:1 ratio when I'm feeling less suicidal) from before the patch. When you get all the crit-mage accessories you really don't have that much space for bloodmagic gear. This means that this change shouldn't do too much to bloodmage builds. On a similar note, the increase to 70% mana upkeep is irrelevant if you don't mind going over the 100% barrier. There isn't much need, but if you really love stacking on sustains there's nothing stopping you. Just don't land on the magical 100% and you'll be able to stack as much as you like.

3. Reduced Requirements
With only ~23-24 willpower required for the end-game robes, this change means that equipping mage gear as an alternative to rogue gear is a pretty viable option. I'll probably have to check out the spirit gear available but this change may make it worthwhile to slip on a dress and prance around looking like a total fop.

4. Haemorrhage
This is one of the changes that makes me sad. With the huge nerf to haemorrhage (almost halved) the main spike damage talent of mages is lost. It still does do considerable damage especially given the reduced hp of elites, but it sort of means that you'll either hit the damage cap or won't deal enough damage, so no more good old exploding parts filling the screen.

5. Spirit Tree
This tree was subject to quite a few buffs. Death syphon is one of the most useful sustains for a non-bloodmage but still situationally useful for bloodmages. The changes make it stronger so this is useful.
This is a crit-build so obviously crit-chance is very important which makes spirit mastery even more desirable (though that +25% critical damage should be the real reason why you're there).
Spirit bolt is actually really powerful. Assuming unlimited mana (that's why we're bloodmages afterall) you have a spell on a really short cooldown capable of dealing thousands of damage and reliably creating force effects for single target crowd control. The improved CCC damage means that it'll be even more useful as your standard go-to spell.

6. Brand + Pinning shot
They are now awesome. The 25% crit chance can give a crit-mage 100% crit chance - which is the result that lots of people waste all merrill's points on (i.e. upgraded hex of torment). It also means that if Aveline is built right she can dish out some heavy crit-action. Pinning shot automatically disorients anything as well as helping to stick them in place. This means that it could fit in quite nicely with a walking bomb when your pull of the abyss is on cooldown.

7. Walking Bomb
While many people think it's useless (and it may be for speed runs), walking bombs are definately not useless. Infact, since a spirit crit-mage hawke has to get it, we might as well incorporate it into the party setup. I should probably experiment with blood slave - e.g. using it in conjunction with walking bombed target to get more damage.

8. Firestorm
As loathe as I am to say it, the 40% buff to firestorm (which was already ridiculously overpowered) means that having anders drop firestorms will prove useful (if the friendly fire doesn't kill you).

9. One Foot In
This spell is now useful for more than just health regen. It deals really solid damage with the only downside of a really long cooldown. That really long cooldown means that it won't be optimial to use it as the basis for your build (e.g. stack on constitution and +health items). But hey, at least now you can dish out some hurt while healing yourself.

10. Blehhhhhh
The patch makes the game annoyingly easy. It is doubtful that you even need an optimised party setup in order to survive nightmare. This may allow you to have some fun with isabela party setups etc. 
So while I'll only go through what I consider as the more optimised build/party setup feel free to try out some of your own innovations.


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This build is designed to make the first few levels pre-unshakeable much more bearable.
Eventually the novelty of getting sent flying and having your face stomped in by anyone and everyone starts to grow old. Been unable to shoot lightning at fools without getting interrupted 90% of the time does get frustrating, so suit-up and become a mage that can stand up - and remain standing! 

Justification
Early game, one of the biggest problems that all classes face is that of knockdown-locks. It is a time where the tiniest dagger-blow or arrow-getting-stuck-through-you sends you tumbling to the ground for anyone to trample on. Warriors man-up and muscle their way out of this, rogues act sneaky or rely on fancy rings, and mages usually endure the pain, waiting for that glorious day when they can finally become unshakeable.

Explanation to knock-back/knockdown mechanics

Summary of posts from Peter Thomas:
After getting damaged there are four possible outcomes depending on the amount of force behind it.
Force is calculated by the amount of damage done (after taking into account armour/resistance and dmg reduction) multiplied by the force multiplier of the attack - e.g. 10dmg*x3-multiplier = 30 force.
Fortitude (force resistance) is subtracted from the amount of force that is received - e.g. 10 fortitude = 30-10 = 20 force taken.

Depending on the amount of force taken relative to max health you get:
1. <10% of max health = twitch of head - no interruption of actions
2. <20% of max health = knocked back a step - interrupted actions
3. <30% of max health = knocked back several steps - interrupted actions
4. >30% of max health = knocked of down/sent flying - interrupted actions


Based on this there are several methods to reduce knockback issues.
  a) Increase armour rating/damage resistance = less damage taken
  B) Increasing fortitude = less force taken
  c) Increasing constitution = less force taken relative to max health
  d) Items with immunity to knockback properties = immune to knockback(2&3) but knockdown(4) still possible
  e) Not getting hit via dodging (via moving away or defence) or not been targeted (threat management & CC)

After some experience and gaining greater CC ability it is possible to get by quite easily via the methods listed above. However, for the initial levels while constitution, fortitude, and armour/dmg resistance are low knockback issues will be a major problem unless you are very good at option e).

Note: This is only in regards to physical damage - elemental damage causes other effects but based on the same force mechanics.

Thus for early-game mages, taking an armoured mage approach can be of great use as such the build operates on almost all levels - increasing armour, fortitude, and constitution. 

So why force yourself to suffer through those eight or so levels when you can become an unshakeable mobile suit of steel instead? Getting the required stats and equipping the relatively overpowered Blood Dragon armour solves the majority of knockdown problems during the first act. While getting the strength and constitution needed to use this armour may take away some points from magic or willpower, overall your damage output can actually increase (as you are no longer getting interrupted and beaten to death) and your survivability will definitely increase.

In addition to the increased enjoyment from not getting knockdown-locked and killed every second fight, been able to take a bit of a beating is always nice. (e.g. an assassin's blade to the back will no longer one-shot you).

What
With the Blood Dragon set and Rock-Armour on, from the very start of the first act you will have 80+% armour, around 180 health and a decent amount of fortitude. This makes you pretty much as manly as Aveline so you'll be able to cast in peace, no longer worrying about all the angry enemies that will chase you when you do so.



How-to-guide: Getting the required attributes fast
From the start of the prologue pump constitution up to 17 followed by pumping strength to 17. If you have malcolm's staff you can invest even less attributes into strength and constitution. If you don't have the ring of resilience then pump constitution and strength to 18. The idea is that there is little point in investing more attributes than you have to so you might as well allow some room for your +attribute gear.

At the start of Act One go to Gamlen's house and pick up your dlc, namely
  • The Ring of Resilience (+1 to all attributes)
  • Dragon Blood Armour (+1 awesomeness)
  • Malcolm's staff (+2 to all attributes.. I think)
Now, assuming you betrayed athenril (2g) and killed Friedrich (5g) + received money in that dlc chest you should already have plenty of sovereigns to splash. So go down to the docks at night, enter the disused passage, save bonny lem and buy the
  • Enchanted silverite chain (+1 to all attributes)
You should now have the stats (19 strength, 19 constitution) to equip the blood dragon armour and become a walking suit of steel which, most importantly, does not get knocked down every two seconds.

As your magic will be quite low you'll have to use the staff of parthalan or apostate's courage (depending on the immunities and weaknesses of the enemies you face) until you reach at least 23 magic, at which point you can buy the magisters scythe if you want to look even more like a warrior. I would recommend continuing to pump only magic at least until your attack scores recover as your mana pool should be good enough for most fights.


An example build at level 10 (with ring of resilience and air of confidence)
  • 20 str, 14 dex, 37 mag, 15 cun, 16 will, 20 con
Blood Dragon Armour, Enchanted Silverite Belt, Ring of Resilience = +3 all attributes
Air of confidence = +1 willpower
Malcolm's Staff (new dlc) is not included in these calcs (the +attribute item property would enable even less points to be invested into strength and constitution)

If you have all these items equipped you will only have to place 7 points into strength and 6 points into constitution (and all the rest can go into magic). With magic levels that high the base damage and attack% will be similar to a robe wearing mage (which has to spend ~6 points into willpower and maybe a few into constitution for survivability).
Alternative approaches may include a less dps focused build with larger amounts of constitution or maybe some into willpower if you want to mix in some +%elemental armour and have a larger mana pool.

In the first act be sure to pick up:
Wounded Coast - Avernus's Experimental Draught = +2 attributes
Hightown Hubert's Fine Goods - Tome of technique = +1 spell
The Black Emporium - Greater Elixir of the Mortal Vessel = +2 attributes (though you can pick this up at later acts instead)

Spells
In terms of spells, get rock armour as soon as possible (2nd level). It does wonders in the prologue in that while you're watching the ogre trample his friends you won't get knockdown-locked and completely owned the instant you make a mistake. Rock armour is also half the reason you can get the absurdly high armour rating once you're all suited up. It is also possible to invest in arcane shield (+20%) though I wouldn't think it's necessary.

After that I would recommend lightning spells and cold spells - mostly because most of the enemies you face during the act will have low electricity resistance and because making things brittle is a fast way to make things die.

Example spell order:
1. Mindblast
2. Chain Lightning
3. Rock Armour
4. Winter's Grasp
5.Tempest
6.Chain Reaction
7.Cone of Cold
8.Fist of the Maker (specialise in Force Mage)
9.Unshakeable
10.Winter's Blast
11. Deep Freeze
12. Strikes Twice
Here's a link if you want: Example Build

This is a more dps orientated build quite competitive with most dps robe-wearing mages.
However, one of the good things about this build is the way that mages of any type can use it. If you want to cast fireballs, heal/buff your companions or debuff your enemies, the concept behind wearing armour still holds. Thus it is not necessary to follow my spell suggestions, though they do have great synergy with the elemental weaknesses you will encounter during the first act.

Weakness to electricity = Arcane Horrors, Dalish, Desire Demons, Shades, Undead, Raiders, Revenants, and Spiders. 
Weakness to cold = Arcane Horrors, Carta, Dragons, Golems, Mabari, Profane, Qunari, Rage Demons, Street Thugs, and Templars 
For the full list of elemental weaknesses go here

This initial early game build isn't designed for higher levels (I've other, superior builds for that ;)). This build simply provides a safe and easy way to reach the level at which unshakeable is available at which point you can respec and become the mage you want to be.

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So if been a magical turtle works for you, here's some tips into how to make a late-game armoured-mage, courtesy of DW2511 and Rabbit-Heart:

Posted Image

The goal here seems to be one of invulnerability as why should you ever have to reload a game? If been able to outlast anything anyone throws at you sounds like your sort of thing then read on!

Justification
Basically this works on the concept of pumping constitution and strength to equip warrior armour as with bloodmagic renders willpower redundant. The strength needed to meet the armour requirements will provide decent amounts of fortitude allowing you to safely specialise as a bloodmage/spirit healer without suffering any knockback issues.

How-to-Guide: Armour, Armour, Armour
Once again, there can be several approaches to such a build. However, what all will have in common is the ability to become some sort of invincible healer/cleric - allowing you to patch up your weaker dps companions again and again while tanking anything and everything.

Probably the most important thing in this build will be the armour. Unlike Orgins, in DA2 the armour ratings between robes and plate are negligible. This means that in order to actually get any advantage from equipping warrior armour (besides removing the need for willpower) you have to choose the right armour with the right properties. Anyway, if you're going to be a real turtle you want a real good shell right?!

So what you'll want to invest in is
  • Helm of a Thousand Battles - from black emporium
This provides a handy immunity to critical hits and 14%dmg resistance.

Other armour pieces are somewhat more optional but some that are worthwhile to consider are the Templar Armour (helps get 100% magical resist) and Ser Maura's Gauntlets (decent armour and 2 runeslots). Otherwise just use whatever looks nice - +%healing is nice as are runeslots. Interestingly, via prebuffing it would be quite viable to have a mixed armour set (some mage some warrior). This enables the armoured elemental build to be more viable.


The attribute setup will determine if your build has reasonable dps as well as reasonable constitution or is an invincible cleric/peace-loving-hippie with such low attack scores and base damages that most of your damage will have to come from CCCs and spells (which have 100% hit chance) and functionally you'll be more about healing and buffing.

Strength and constitution will be necessary for equipping armour. Constitution is useful for both the mana pool and durability so that's no problem, but while strength can help with fortitude it isn't as necessary to get too much. So prebuffing is probably the key.

With around 25 strength it should be possible to pre-buff to 32 strength (e.g. Using the proving battle tunic with a valiance rune and a few +all attribute/+strength items). It may be possible to pre-buff even more but I haven't looked into this too much.

Anyhow, some example stat distributions are:
str 31, mag 64, con 33 (including vitality) or maybe focusing even less on magic with a bit more in constitution.

Whatever direction you take this build, due to the lower base damage (relative to glass cannon builds)in both builds it will be better damage-wise to just pump magic - as the actual damage from crits will increase more from magic than cunning and the dps will increase more from increasing the base damage (magic) than increasing crit chance (dex) for those stats.


Spells
Spells determine if you want to do an elementalist approach or an physical/spirit approach. While you can do anything you like, whether it be damage spells or CC spells (in addition to healing and buffing) if your damage spells are mainly from the elemental and primal tree (fire, cold, lightning) you'll want to get use item like the
-Ring of the Ferryman
-Belt of Primevals
If you're trying to go the more dps elemental route it may be beneficial to pump a little willpower ~21 which can be prebuffed to meet the requirements for the
-Robes of Unblemished Cleanliness
Having willpower will also be useful in that you will be able to equip some mage armour which includes +%elemental damage.


If you go the more physical/spirit approach, (based off a similar approach to the crit-mage build) you could get the
-Etched Ring of the Twins (Its +2 strength and increased crit damage/chance will be useful)
-Seven Deadly Cinch
-Four Fingered Eddie's Lucky Talisman (if you can afford it)


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p.s No Llamas were harmed during the making of this guide.
Posted Image Thanks go to http://llamafont.com/ for making this amazing font. haha

Edited by mr_afk, 31 October 2011 - 03:33 PM.

#2
I am interested to see how your setup will work out at higher levels, so I suppose I would find a guide about this alternative mage build for nightmare an interesting read.
#3
Why not go spirit/blood since you already have higher fortitude from using warrior armour? Suppose it does not matter too much though, and for dex/cun build you will probably want force mage.

Interesting idea anyway.
#4
Plate-wearing Mages have been a common idea when the game first came out, but have since been forgotten. I think the reason for this is that people realized that the combat system in this game encourages you to kill things quickly rather than tank them for hours.
For example, it's actually much safer to go with a rather glass-canon setup to kill a dragon in 60 seconds rather than prolong the fight to 4 minutes by being overly defensive. It's also better to kill an enemy assassin as fast as you can rather than hoping that for the next 2 minutes he'll only pop out on Aveline or your plate-wearing tank rather than on Varric "Squishy" Tethras or Vengeance-mode Anders.
#5
I went through nightmare with basically a plate wearing mage, the short of it is, you can do it but it's not terribly effective (at least I wasn't), as you would probably guess. It works reasonably well up until the rock wraith, but he'll put a beat down on you. After that, you have to keep increasing your str/con to wear better armor which really doesn't cut it since it has no real synergy with mage abilities. I tried to focus on physical damage spells and used the magister's scythe since a lot of warrior armor has +physical damage. And to be honest, I preferred that because it meant zero staff switching but you have to accept that damage is far from optimal.

However, by act 2 you really have to switch out of using magister's scythe because your spell damage will be too weak. I tried to circumvent this by focusing on buffs/debuffs but at the end of the day, I found it to be a pretty uninspiring build, all I really did was cast gravitic ring, death hex and haste, and my other party members did the real work.
#6

Apathy1989 wrote...

Why not go spirit/blood since you already have higher fortitude from using warrior armour? Suppose it does not matter too much though, and for dex/cun build you will probably want force mage. 


I'm planning to respec into a dex/cun build soon rather than strength/constitution mostly because warrior armour doesn't have much higher armour ratings/any benefit once the rogue gear becomes a comparative level to the Blood Dragon set. The only real benefit from spirit healer is vitality (+10 con) which would probably be essential if you were planning to continue using warrior armour, and that is only available at a higher level. I was tempted to go into blood mage first but decided to go into force mage for makers fist since my mana levels are still sufficient for most battles (with a mana potion for the longer ones).
My dex/cun build will have to rely on unshakeable for fortitude - my original tank build is mainly to avoid the early-game problems with knock-back I had on my rogue playthrough.

iLikeBWgames wrote...

Plate-wearing Mages have been a common idea when the game first came out, but have since been forgotten. I think the reason for this is that people realized that the combat system in this game encourages you to kill things quickly rather than tank them for hours.
For example, it's actually much safer to go with a rather glass-canon setup to kill a dragon in 60 seconds rather than prolong the fight to 4 minutes by being overly defensive. It's also better to kill an enemy assassin as fast as you can rather than hoping that for the next 2 minutes he'll only pop out on Aveline or your plate-wearing tank rather than on Varric "Squishy" Tethras or Vengeance-mode Anders.


Yeah I know it's nothing that original, hence the asking if anyone had done a guide/effective build utilising it.
As I stated just above, the tank build is mainly for the initial stages (pre-unshakeable) where getting knockdown-locked to death is a common situation. Once you're not getting destroyed by any critter who gets past your tank I would agree that killing things faster is the best solution. Hence my second build that I'm planning to use, the rogue armour +crit dmg build. I'm pretty sure that if done right my build should be pretty competitive with a pure magic/willpower build in terms of killing-assassin-speed given that spike damage is the overall aim.

Picture annoying assassin getting a) horror (to keep it still) B) hex of torment (100% crit chance + lower dmg resistance) c) crushing prison + whole party gang bashing it. I'm pretty sure that that assassin will be dead.

The only real problem is getting general crit chance high enough without wasting too many points in dex (because those could be better spent in magic or cunning) such that general spell damage is increased. But that's a problem for another day. haha

m14567 wrote...

I went through nightmare with basically a plate wearing mage, the short of it is, you can do it but it's not terribly effective (at least I wasn't), as you would probably guess. It works reasonably well up until the rock wraith, but he'll put a beat down on you. After that, you have to keep increasing your str/con to wear better armor which really doesn't cut it since it has no real synergy with mage abilities. I tried to focus on physical damage spells and used the magister's scythe since a lot of warrior armor has +physical damage. And to be honest, I preferred that because it meant zero staff switching but you have to accept that damage is far from optimal.

However, by act 2 you really have to switch out of using magister's scythe because your spell damage will be too weak. I tried to circumvent this by focusing on buffs/debuffs but at the end of the day, I found it to be a pretty uninspiring build, all I really did was cast gravitic ring, death hex and haste, and my other party members did the real work.


Yeah that was my main concern with warrior gear mages. By the time I reach the rock wraith i'm planning to be suited up in either my flint company cuirass (because it looks awesome) or maybe the ancient leather cuirass with an electric-resistance rune (so ARW can't do **** all to me bahaha).
I wasn't planning to keep the magister's scythe, it's mainly for the initial act when you don't have a huge selection of staves to choose from. Since I usually run with two or three mages, having more than one fire/cold staff is neccessary - and since i didn't have that many staves I bought an all-purpose one.




Note:
To anyone who is reading my build as a whole-game tank mage read again!! I'm planning to respec into a crit-mage!! Of course that might fail in which case my 'walkthrough' will never happen.
All i'm offering atm with my early game tank-mage is a fast way to become knock-down resistant (for the levels before you can get unshakable). Hope that clears things up

Edited by mr_afk, 14 April 2011 - 02:20 PM.

#7
Well, people have crunched numbers on crit-based mages and doesn't look good, by all means try it but the numbers aren't on your side apparently.

Edited by m14567, 14 April 2011 - 02:23 PM.

#8

m14567 wrote...

Well, people have crunched numbers on crit-based mages and doesn't look good, by all means try it but the numbers aren't on your side apparently.


Yeah I think I came across a thread considering it. But nobody seemed to have actually tested the build out in the actual game (mostly theoretical hypothesising etc) or taken into account the additional properties of rogue equipment. I'm not looking at having an overall higher damage average, more the utility of a mage who can dish out loads of damage when needed (e.g. killing off assassins and mages) because most of the companions suck at that.

I can't be bothered number crunching for maximum efficiency atm so I'm pretty sure that I am not even going to pump dex that high, only enough to equip armour. Crit chance is relatively useless for spike damage if you have a guaranteed crits. Well I probably should stop hypothesising myself and start testing it out. haha


Edit: During my short attempt at testing this (using one of my previous mage playthrough) I discovered that the stealth boots (+2 all attributes, +21% crit damage) are restricted to rogues!! That sorta sucks as it limits the max. +crit damage a lot and the +2 would probably be useful for equipping higher level rogue gear.
In fact, from browsing a list of available equipment it seems like there isn't that many non-rogue specific +crit damage gear (unless the list isn't complete)...

The only glove is the bloody butchers (+3%), I can't do fools gold so the best boots are Worn Leather (+5%), chestpieces are around (+13%) but don't have any rune slots, there aren't any helms (haven't got dead space) though I suppose I can get the seven deadly cinch (+9%), etched ring (+9%) and one of the other rings (~+5%)
That totals to ~44% but sacrificing loads of armour (because they're so low leveled).
Maybe i'll have to mix in some willpower for the robes of unblemished cleanliness (32 Willpower required).
So looks like i'll need to figure a really really efficient way to pre-buff willpower...or maybe if the generic rogue armour has some +crit damage..?
This is turning out to be more complicated than I thought! :(

Edited by mr_afk, 14 April 2011 - 04:53 PM.

#9
you should keep in mind spells like Heroic Aura upgraded, Hex of Torment upgraded, abilities like Brand all negate every attribute point you put toward a crit build.

btw 26 willpower should be your end game as far as point distribution.  Rune of Valiance will carry you to 31-32 willpower from an act 2 item quite easily.

Edited by SuicidialBaby, 14 April 2011 - 05:54 PM.

#10

SuicidialBaby wrote...

you should keep in mind spells like Heroic Aura upgraded, Hex of Torment upgraded, abilities like Brand all negate every attribute point you put toward a crit build.

btw 26 willpower should be your end game as far as point distribution.  Rune of Valiance will carry you to 31-32 willpower from an act 2 item quite easily.


Do you mean just every point into dexterity is wasted or every point into cunning as well? Because wouldn't cunning increase the crit damage? So using the above mentioned abilities, your points into cunning (and any +crit damage gear you have equipped) would be well spent? I agree partially about dex been relatively useless - but as the 10% from brand and heroric still won't bring the crit chance to 100% the dex won't be completely wasted (as opposed to willpower)

And thanks for your help regarding amounts of willpower required. But wouldn't that mean that you could prebuff from an act 1 item (vestments of the mystic +2 will, +valiance) to equip the act 2 item which then could get you the act 3 item?
So that means that only ~20 willpower is needed?
And without the need to pump willpower that high in order to equip top end mage equipment, the point of equipping rogue gear is made partially redundant (as its purpose was partially to avoid having to have any willpower). So I guess my build will depend on whether the generic rogue gear has any good +crit damage modifiers which outweigh the +%elemental of robes etc in terms of spike damage, though with only 20 willpower needed a mixed build (some rogue some mage) might work out best.

Edited by mr_afk, 15 April 2011 - 12:55 AM.

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