Arcane Implement Mastery Guide

OrbThe 4E Wizard class feature Arcane Implement Mastery is a powerful ability that can shape the entire career of your character. Be it Orb, Wand, Staff, or Tome, the implement you want to use will influence your race, ability scores, feats, powers, and more. Here we look at each of the implements from both the Player’s Handbook and Arcane Power, and discuss their various merits.

 

Overview

Wizards are capable of using Orbs, Wands, Staves, and, from Arcane Power, Tomes. Unlike implement choice for other classes, the Arcane Implement Mastery class feature grants special abilities based on which implement you choose: it is equivalent to choosing between build options for another class, such as the Pact choice for a Warlock.

Choosing an implement for a Wizard is a bit like choosing a Wizard specialization in 3.5: it is a fairly significant choice. Since different implement key off different ability scores, you will likely have a different ability score allocation at character creation, and your race will influence, or be influenced by, your implement choice. In addition, certain powers and feats are better for certain implements.

The choices for Implement Mastery are as follows.

From the Player’s Handbook:

  • Orb of Imposition: Penalize saving throws, or (lame) extend at-wills
  • Staff of Defence: Increase defences
  • Wand of Accuracy: Enhance attack roll

From Arcane Power:

  • Orb of Deception: Recover from misses with Illusions
  • Tome of Binding: Improve damage of summons
  • Tome of Readiness: Power flexibilityImplements

Orb of Imposition

The Orb of Imposition grants the ability to penalize saving throws once per encounter (…or extend at-wills, but no-one uses that). Note that the Orb of Imposition has been heavily nerfed by updates: the saving throw penalty only applies to the first saving throw. It’s not broken anymore, but it’s still handy. Orb of Imposition Wizards favour control over damage.

The penalty to the saving throw is equal to your Wisdom modifier, so Wisdom is going to be your secondary stat, with appropriate race considerations. This is quite handy: the excellent at-will Thunderwave keys of Wisdom, as do a few nice skills, and your Will defence will be very good.

There are two catches with the Orb of Imposition. The first is you need a decent Save Ends power to trigger it off. Fortunately, the Level 1 Daily Sleep is well-suited, particularly because penalizing the first save is actually very useful (targets need to fail 1st save to fall unconcious). However, other useful Save Ends powers do no appear for quite some time, and bringing along the Orb just to extend a Slow or something is a bit lame.

The second catch is penalizing saving throws works best when combined with other penalties, so you have to invest a bit into other abilities and items. Many of the items giving saving throw penalties have been severely nerfed to only apply to the first save, with the primary exception being the Orb of Fickle Fate (Adventurer’s Vault). An Amulet of Elegy (Adventurer’s Vault 2) is a decent option that doesn’t take up any hands.

Overall, what these two catches mean is that the Orb of Imposition only really comes into its own in Paragon and higher. At Paragon you can take the save-penalizing feat Spell Focus (you need 13 Charisma, so make sure you start with at least 12, +1 for Paragon), your Wisdom will be decently high, and you may have one or more suitable items. I personally am playing a Wizard that started on a Wand (but with good Wisdom), and will pick up the Second Implement feat to use the Orb of Imposition once I get to Paragon.

Staff of Defence

The Staff of Defence gives a passive AC bonus, in addition to allowing you to, as an immediate interrupt once per encounter, improve your defences by your Constitution modifier. Your high Con will also make your Fort quite respectable, which is otherwise a serious problem for Wizards. With high Con and good AC, a Staff Wizard wades into combat and blasts people at close range.

Melee Training (PHB2) may be a good idea, allowing your basic attacks with the Staff (which can be used as a weapon) to be half-decent. Grabbing Leather proficiency or the Unarmored Agility feat (PHB3) to improve your AC is a must. If you can spare 13 Strength, then you could go Hide (and then Hide Specialization), but this has fallen out of favour a bit. Having a good Defender on your side is also critical.

Since you will be up close, you should lean towards Close powers: fortunately, there are are a fair number of good ones. Thunderwave is a recommended at-will, although a bit of Wisdom investment will make it better. If you’re feeling brave, you can purposefully cast Ranged or Area spells in melee to trigger opportunity attacks from monsters marked by a friendly Defender.

An important consideration regarding Staves is the excellent selection of magical ones available. The powers in magic Staves are quite varied and very useful, such many non-Staff Wizards may be inclined to hold one in their off-hand anyway.

Wand of Accuracy

The Wand of Accuracy allows you to add your Dex to your attack roll once per encounter. This can be used reactively, after you have already missed (source: PHB FAQ #23). The Wand is very good at making sure important things hit, which is often critical for landing an important condition on a Solo or Elite.

Having Dex as your secondary is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you Initiative goes through the roof. On the other hand, it does nothing for your defences, since your AC and Reflex are already augmented by your high Int.

You should try to optimize your Initiative ASAP. Grab Improved Initiative immediately. Try to get a Warlord to follow you around. Get some sort of item bonus: if you have a spare hand, a simple +1 Orb of Nimble Thoughts (PHB3) is perfect, adding your Int to your Initiative. At Paragon, take Danger Sense to roll twice.

As for power selection, the key with the Wand is to have a good opener with a good condition. You’ll usually be going first, so make sure you soften up everything before the Strikers and Defenders run in. Something like Colour Spray (Area Daze) is perfect, as are things like Walls.

The biggest problem with using a Wand, though, is the terrible magic item support. The PHB options are pretty terrible. There is a little improvement in the Adventurer’s Vault, and a few more decent ones in the Adventurer’s Vault 2, but you’ll almost definately be holding an Orb or Staff in your off-hand for much of your career. If you favour a certain at-will, then the appropriate Master’s Wand is alright to enhance it, but the power will be useless (the ability to use said at-will once per enounter).

For some more information on using Wands in 4E D&D, consult our Wands in 4E Guide.

Overall though, lets face it: the Wand is probably the weakest implement. If you want power, look elsewhere.

Orb of Deception

The Orb of Deception allows you to redirect a missed Illusion power to a new target, once per encounter, with a Charisma bonus to attack thrown in for good measure. Obviously, the Orb of Deception is only useful to those who extensively use Illusions. The choice of the Orb of Deception is simple: if you’re playing an Illusionist, you may want the Orb of Deception. If you don’t intend on using many Illusions, then another implement is probably better.

Illusions (almost entirely in Arcane Power) are quite powerful (a few have been nerfed, check the update: Grasping Shadows does less damage, Illusionary Wall is a Daily). They do exactly what the Wizard is meant to do: hard control. The main Illusion at-will, Illusionary Ambush, is very handy. Illusions target Will, which is generally the lowest monster defence.

As for feats: Psychic Lock (PHB) is a great Paragon feat, penalizing enemies’ attack rolls whenever you hit them with psychic damage… which is most of the time, since Illusions do psychic damage. The Paragon feat Improved Orb of Deception is also very good, allowing you to grant combat advantage with your Illusions.

For items, you’re a little restricted because most Orbs were written with the Orb of Imposition in mind, however there are still some handy items. The Orb of Mental Dominion (Adventurer’s Vault) allows you to force saving throw re-rolls when you attack against Will… which is basically all Illusion powers. The Headband of Intellect (Adventurer’s Vault) is particularly excellent, granting attack bonuses with psychic powers… which is basically all Illusion powers.

Tome of Binding

The Tome of Binding improves the damage of your summons by your Con modifier, once per encounter. Like how the Orb of Deception is the obvious choice for Illusionists, the Tome of Binding is a good choice for Summoners. If you’re not intending on doing much Summoning, go for something else.

For power selection, you want to try to get as many summons as possible, both as Daily Attack powers, and Utility powers. Try to cast summons as early in the battle as possible. Use the summons to take damage for your party. Don’t be afraid to make them trigger opportunity attacks by monsters marked by your Defenders. Use them to flank to give your Strikers combat advantage. Once you get to Paragon, the Improved Tome of Binding feat is a must, granting temporary hitpoints to your summons.

Since summons use your defences, having good defences is critical to get the most out of the summons. Leather proficiency or the Unarmored Agility feat (PHB3) is definitely a priority, and getting some magic armour quickly is also good. A Neck item for non-AC defences is also a good idea.

For magic Tomes, don’t forget that as well as the Adventurer’s Vault 2 ones, there are some hiding at the back of Arcane Power, which are, on the whole, more useful to a summoner. Other than those, the Summoner’s Staff (Adventurer’s Vault 2) is great even just to stick in your off-hand.

Tome of Readiness

The Tome of Readiness is perhaps the most unique of the implements: instead of focusing some existing ability, such as enhancing your attack roll or summons, it simply grants more versatility.

The Tome of Readiness allows you to store an encounter attack power inside it, and, at a later time, sacrifice another encounter attack power to cast the tome’s one instead. For example, you could memorize Grasping Shadows as your encounter 1, but keep Chill Strike in your tome and use that instead if you really need to Daze something. The Paragon feat Improved Tome of Readiness makes this even more amazing, allowing you to do the same with a Daily or Utility power. With Utilities, you can also pull shenanigans involving sacrificing an Encounter power to use a Daily from the tome every encounter… the jury is out on whether this was intended by the writers, but it hasn’t been errata’d yet…

The Tome of Readiness is perfect for anyone who was feeling restricted by the limited versatility of the 4E Power system: if you’re used to 1-3.5E Wizards, using the Tome of Readiness may be good for your sanity. It is also excellent for anyone who wasn’t jumping at any other implement, since the Tome of Readiness is great for just about any kind of Wizard.

The magic tomes, in Arcane Power and the Adventurer’s Vault 2, mainly focus in this concept of improved versatility. Most of the tomes contain one or two Daily attack powers which can, as a Daily item use, be used in exchange for sacrificing another Daily attack power of your own. Can’t decide between Sleep and Flaming Sphere? Take Sleep and grab a Tome of the Replenishing Flame (Arcane Power) with Flaming Sphere in it, and you can choose on the fly.

Important: Whilst marginally more useful with the Tome, the Expanded Spellbook feat (PHB) still sucks, and should not be taken.

Multiclassing and Hybrid Characters

Multiclassing is a great way to get a little extra power, even if just for the benefit of the multiclass feat. However, with regards to implements, you should be aware of a few restrictions.

  • Orb of Imposition: Only works on Wizard powers
  • Staff of Defence: No issues
  • Wand of Accuracy: No issues, works on all powers
  • Orb of Deception: Only works on Wizard Illusion powers
  • Tome of Binding: Only works on Arcane Summoning powers
  • Tome of Readiness: Only works on Wizard powers

As for Hybrid Characters, Wizard is a popular choice for a Hybrid because they don’t really lose that much… however, they do lose their Arcane Implement Mastery. You can, however, use the Hybrid Talent feat to regain this (this may not be the best use of the feat, but your mileage may vary). As with multiclassing, you should be aware of the interactions noted above, which will be even more important, since many more of your powers will be non-Wizard. An additional note for the Tome of Readiness is you do not get the Spellbook class feature, meaning that the Improved Tome of Readiness feat will not work.

Conclusion

Regardless of which implement you choose, remember the basics. If you’re a control Wizard, don’t waste feats on damage bonuses. Some feats, such Leather proficiency or Unarmored Agility (PHB3), as well as Improved Initiative, are good for any Wizard. Don’t grab lame powers just because you think they’re right for whichever implement you chose: this especially applies to some of the powers in Arcane Power which have bonuses for certain implements.

If you choose an implement, start playing, and don’t like it, just ask your DM if you can retrain to a different one. If you can’t or don’t want to, then you can at least pick up the Second Implement feat at Paragon and try something else. You don’t have to play in a certain way just because you chose a certain implement. If you want to pretend to be Gandalf, running around with a Staff and Sword, do so, and don’t worry about it. The most important thing to remember is that the aim of the game is to have fun.

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About Duncan

Ellisthion's all about 5E D&D at the moment, but has at times has played every edition from 1E AD&D through to 5E, plus Star Wars: Saga Edition, Paranoia, and more. He DMs a lot, and tends to make overly-complicated campaigns and characters.
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