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Combat Primer

Matt Plourde Posted:
System Focus 0

Wizard101: Combat Primer

MMORPG.com Wizard101 Correspondent Matt Plourde writes this overview of combat in the not-just-for-kids magical MMO Wizard101.

I think I need an intervention - for my wife.  Since showing her Wizard 101 a few weeks ago, we've been playing every night.  She has several characters and she's addicted to Sorcery Stones (one of the mini games).  She tells me she hears the music in her head throughout her day, and I'm really starting to worry about her.  Well, if you find yourself in the same place - or you're thinking of trying this game - enjoy this guide to wizard duels in Wizard 101.

Let's start a fight!

Simply walking near a roaming monster will initiate a fight.  Also, some quests and areas of the game will bring you into an "instance" - a private gaming space for you and your friends.  These instances can be as small as one room, or as large as an entire zone, complete with quests and bosses.  In Wizard City, the sidewalks are generally safe. However, as you explore the higher level areas and instances you'll have to try harder and harder to avoid wandering mobs.

You may also join other player's fights simply by walking into the combat area - if there is room (maximum: 4 players/minions).  There is no control to keep other players from joining your battles in the open world, and there are two sides to that argument.  Some people like it because they meet new people and enjoy the social aspect of the game. Other players might find the joining players a nuisance or hindrance to their progress.  I'm actually a fan of the system - it's a tad like what Warhammer Online implemented for their open grouping system. Note: there is no official "grouping" in Wizard 101, which could make things frustrating sometimes when you just want to tool around with your friend... or wife... or kid.

In the "beginner" zones, you'll face a maximum of one enemy per player (the boss fights / instances break this rule).  Once you reach Colossus Blvd. in Wizard City, all random battles from that point forward can have one more enemy than there are players.  The extra enemies will simply join your fight, just like other players.

Wizard101 Screenshot

Okay, I'm here... now what?

When a battle begins, you'll notice several things - an array of 7 cards from your deck, a yellow or white "Pip" at the feet of all characters, a highlighted circle in front of the player or monster who will act first, and the name, type, and health of each enemy monster. Play will proceed clockwise from the initial actor, and this will result in either the players or the monsters acting with their entire side followed by the other side.

The cards you draw are pulled randomly from your deck, wand, and other items.  If you've ever played a trading card game, you know the importance of constructing a good deck.  I plan to cover deck-building strategies in another article.  For now, let's assume you have a fair variety of low and high cost spells, and a wand.

All players have 30 seconds to decide what to do.  The options may seem simple at first, but there's a good deal of depth under the hood - let's take a look!

Pips and you

All spells have a number in the upper left area of the card - this number represents the amount of mana and pips required to cast the spell.  Each round, you gain 1 pip - with a chance for that pip to instead be a "power pip."  A power pip counts as 2 pips, but only for spells from your primary school.  You gain a 10% chance each round to gain a power pip instead of a normal pip - and this chance goes up as you raise your level.

Be mindful of your normal and power pips.  If you have 1 normal and 1 power pip, and you cast a spell with a cost of 2 - you will use both pips if the spell is outside of your primary school!  On the flip side, the game is smart enough to not waste that power pip if you have enough normal pips to cast your selected spell.

Wizard101 Screenshot

Pass, Flee, or Draw?

There are three buttons under your available cards - Pass, Flee, and Draw.  You'll notice that "Draw" is not clickable.

Passing is simply that - you take no action this round.  This is usually done when you are saving pips for a bigger spell and you don't have any 0 cost spells in your hand.  Monsters pass from time to time as well, and it makes me wonder what their hands look like.

Fleeing sends you home (to the starting point for each world) and zeroes-out your mana.  So, you must find blue wisps or play some mini games to refill.

You can only click "Draw" after you have discarded at least one card and you have at least 1 "Treasure Card" in your sidebar.  You may discard as many cards as you want from your hand by right-clicking on them.  At that point, you have the option of leaving your hand the way it is, or drawing replacement treasure cards from your sidebar.  If you do not draw treasure cards, you will draw new cards (from your normal spell deck) on the next round of combat to replace the discarded cards.  This is a great way to dump spells you don't think you'll need (or can't cast yet) in favor of more immediately useful spells.  However - beware!  If you run out of cards (the number remaining will be displayed on top of your face-down deck), you will be immediately transported "home."

Know thy enemy!

All monsters have their rank, type, and current health displayed. Ranks go up from Rank 1, but are not parallel to the player levels.  A rank 3 monster may be a good challenge for a 12th level character, for example.  Elite monsters are tougher than their rank would indicate, and Boss monsters are even stronger.

All monsters are tied with a certain spell school represented by that school's symbol under their name.  Though there are exceptions and special cases, these schools are opposed (you deal more damage when using the paired magic type):  Fire-Ice, Life-Death, Lightning-Myth. Balance seems to be the odd-ball, neither weak nor strong (in general) vs. any one type of magic.  You might even say - "it's balanced." Ahem... Keep in mind, you also deal less damage when you attack with the same type (ie - if you attack a fire creature with a fire spell, expect to do less damage).  You can collect this data as you go, as the word "boost" or "resist" will float with the damage number when you strike a monster.

Wizard101 Screenshot

A little help from your friends…

When you are cooperatively fighting alongside other players, their spell selection and target icon will appear next to their name at the bottom of the screen.  So, if an enemy has 1 health left, and you see "Bob the Magnificent" is using his wand on that enemy - perhaps you should choose a different target... as Bob will kill his target.  Yes - if your target is gone before you act, you do nothing for that round.

Here's where some of the strategy creeps into the combat as well.  If Bob the Magnificent acts after you, and you see his is casting his Big Spell of Doom - maybe you can boost his damage or accuracy!  Or, maybe, Bob is healing you and you want to boost his heal spell!  As you gain levels, the options become more varied.

That's some big aggro!

Monsters use an "aggression" system, much like other MMORPGs. Basically, if you deal damage to a monster - it will start to hate you more than the other players.  Monsters usually (but not always) attack the target they dislike the most.  So, if you cast a spell which hits all enemies, expect some payback on the next round! There are also some spells to manage aggro - either to give yourself more, or lessen the amount you have.

If I wanted to nitpick, I'd point out that damage results are usually not visible against taller monsters and sometimes you cannot join a fight that starts near you unless you walk out of the combat area - but, I'm really stretching.  The combat is fun, varied, tactical, visually pleasing, and might even be enough to hook a MMORPG newcomer.  In most MMORPGs, your fights break down into a button routine. However, with the random nature of the spells you draw and what other players/monsters decide to do - I find myself more engaged in Wizard 101 combat than in some of my recent MMORPG addictions.  I'm not saying it's perfect, but it certainly does break from the norm.


Matt Plourde