Normally, a Mage is your typical glass cannon ranged caster than serves the purpose of healing your part or just dealing damage from range. Typically, they have very poor survivability and are helpless without a group. However, the Arcane Warrior takes these stereotypes and crushes them under a heavily armored boot. Using its skill in Magic to gain excellent martial prowess, the Arcane Warrior specialization turns your Mage into a sword swinging wrecking ball that can function as the most durable tank in the game. While the reliance of passives in this specialization leaves this class with a very low mana pool, the Blood Mage specialization turns that weakness into a strength by instead using the health pool to cast spells and dish out damage. These two specializations combine to make the strongest build in the game, the Arcane Blood Mage. Hopefully this will give you a good build for that neat copy of Origins that you bought for super cheap over the holidays!
Basic Mechanics and Spells of Arcane Warrior:
Arcane Warrior takes the traditional caster play style of the Mage and tosses it right out of the window. With the Combat Magic sustained spell, you get a passive bonus to attack, and it allows you to use Spellpower as the determinate for combat damage (damage with melee weapons) instead of Strength. This means that the points you put into Magic will increase the damage you deal with swords and other melee weapons while this passive stance is active. It also allows you to equip heavy weapons and armor by using the Magic attribute to satisfy the Strength requirement. For example, with Combat Magic active, a piece of armor that requires 36 Strength to equip will now cost 36 Magic. This comes with a cost though, as you gain a large bonus to fatigue, increasing the amount of mana that your spells with cost. Luckily we will be able to counteract this with Blood Magic later on. The Aura of Might passive gives you an additional increase to attack, defense, and damage while Combat Magic is active, making it a great upgrade. Shimmering Shield truly turns you into an indestructible force. Another powerful sustained spell, this basically throws up a shield around you that absorbs most of the damage you take, and grants huge bonuses to your armor and resistance numbers. However, it also gives you a large bonus to fatigue and drains some of your mana every few seconds, so having a decent sized mana pool and keeping an eye on it is essential. However, at later levels, you will have no problems keeping both this and Combat Magic up at all times, except when an enemy or ally uses something like Dispel. Fade Shroud is the final talent in this specialization and helps it all come together, it grants a large bonus to mana regeneration, allowing you to keep your sustained spells up, and it gives you a chance to dodge attacks, giving you more fuel to the fire. You’re already the most durable class in the game.
How to Unlock the Arcane Warrior Specializations
You can unlock the Arcane Warrior specialization during the “Nature of the Beast” quest line, and it involves a small sequence of events that are performed in the Lower Ruins of the Brecilian Ruins. You will want to find a room that looks like a small ruined library, and look for a phylactery. It will be in the far right corner of the room, and it isn’t highlighted, so you’re gonna have to hover over it with your mouse. When you touch the phylactery, you will experience the memories of an elven arcane warrior whose spirit has remained forgotten and trapped in the phylactery for centuries. It will offer to teach you the secret of Arcane Warriors in exchange for its spirit being set free by being placed on an ancient altar conveniently located in the very same room. The spirit also is so forgetful that it has forgotten that this altar is once again, right in the room. Seriously, just to the left. Here are the dialogue choices that one would need to make to get this specialization.
1.) Touch the gem.
2.) “Is this some kind of trapped spirit?”
3.) “Is there anything I can do for you.”
4.) “Yes, I will try to help you.”
5.) Approach the stone altar with the gem.
6.) “Yes. Give me your memories.”
After that, you can either place the artifact on the stone altar, chuck the vial across the room like a depleted bottle of whiskey, or put it in your pocket and save it for later…. though why you’d need an amnesiac elven warrior in a bottle in your backpack is beyond me.
Basic Mechanics and Spells of Blood Mage
Blood Mage is the perfect compliment to Arcane Warrior, as it allows you to use your health pool as mana, thus skirting around the tight mana management involved with Arcane Warrior’s passives. The cornerstone of this specialization is the Blood Magic sustained, which causes you to sacrifice health instead of mana to cast spells, at the cost of any healing you receive being significantly reduced. This effect will be negated with our gear, which I will get into in a bit. Blood Sacrifice is a very interesting spell. It sucks some life from one of your companions and heals you, and the healing you receive is unaffected by Blood Magic. This can potentially kill your ally, but, if it saves you, who cares?! Blood Wound is an absolutely incredible spell that is a large AoE effect that deals massive damage and can immobilize enemies. It’s definitely worth using on cooldown, however, it will not work on enemies without blood, such as undead. Blood Control is the final spell in this specialization, and it allows you to attempt to take control of an enemy target pending a mental resistance check. Even if you are unable to take control of the target, they are going to take massive damage due to the spell’s second effect. All of those spells are very useful, especially Blood Wound, making this specialization the obvious compliment to Arcane Warrior. However, it is worth noting that to use the three spells in this specialization, you need to have Blood Magic active.
How to Unlock the Blood Mage Specialization
To unlock the Blood Mage specialization, you’re going to have to do something horrible. That’s right. You have to sell a child’s soul to a demon. I’m not kidding. Perhaps that is oversimplifying it, but, that’s the gist of it. You do this during the Arl of Redcliffe quest line, and you unlock the specialization by going into the Fade during the quest. Basically, you’ll bargain with the demon, and get to a point where you unlock the Blood Mage specialization by having the demon teach you arcane secrets. While normally this would affect the outcome of the story, if you don’t want this particular chain of events happening, you can make a second save file right before entering the Fade, and after you unlock the specialization, reload the save. This will make it so that you have unlocked the specialization but will be able to be a good little Warden.
Other Useful Spells
In addition to the spells and passives found in our two specialization trees, we also have an array of useful spells in other trees. The Arcane Shield and Rock Armor sustained spells are must haves, as they increase defense and armor, respectively. This goes well with our build because we are acting as a tank anyway, so any buff to our survivability is good. The Arcane Mastery passive is incredible, as it gives us a passive increase to our spellpower, which is our damage roll. Flaming Weapons is a good DPS boost for your party, especially since you’re likely to have Alistair with you at all times with this build. Heal gives use a very powerful utility spell, allowing us to save an ally in trouble or ourselves if need be (assuming Blood Magic is not active). Mind Blast is an incredible crowd control ability, especially as lower levels, and offers us a panic button. Crushing Prison is hands down the best spell in the game, dealing an insane amount of damage and possibly immobilizing the target. If you have the Warden’s Keep DLC, I highly recommend picking up the two Power of Blood spells by drinking the alchemical concoction. They both have situational uses.
Gearing an Arcane Warrior is different than gearing any of the other Mage specializations because we’re actually doing to be equipping heavy armor. With that in mind, the best armor set for this build is without a doubt King Cailan’s Armor Set. This set gives you a passive plus 5 to in-combat health regeneration, thus getting around Blood Magic’s healing penalty and making you pretty much immortal. You also get a large reduction in Fatigue, a 20% improved chance to dodge all attacks, 4 additional armor points, 10% increased critical damage, 10% increased mental resistance, and 15% increased physical resistance. You can get this armor set by doing the Return to Ostagar DLC. The best weapon for this build is Maric’s Blade, which gives us a further 1.5 health regeneration in combat, 1.5 mana regeneration in combat, a +6 damage roll against Darkspawn, which are the main enemy you will be fighting in the game (duh!). In addition, it applies a weakening effect to nearby Darkspawn, and has great damage, critical chance, and armor penetration rolls. To top it all off, it has 3 rune slots! We are going to be using a shield for this build, and the best shield bar none is Cailan’s Shield, which gives you 1 armor point and greatly increases your chance of dodging missile attacks. Maric’s Blade and Cailain’s Shield together are an item set, one that gives you plus 5 to your damage roll, and a plus 5 to your in-combat mana regeneration. Both are found in the Return to Ostagar DLC. So in other words, you want your best in slot gear, go do that DLC! Also, I should mention that with the above items, they will be picked up at Item Level 5, however, they can be leveled to Level 7 using a neat trick. If you have the Warden’s Keep DLC, simply sell the items to the blacksmith at the Keep, leave the area, and come back. When you buy them back, they will be Level 7, assuming you are the correct level. Weapon runes are up to personal preference, in my opinion, however, the rune I like to use 2 Grandmaster Silverite Ruins, which gives you +10 Damage to Darkspawn, once again, the main enemies you’re going to be fighting. One of these runes can be bought from Faryn in the Frostback Mountain Pass, and the other can be purchased from Gorim in Denerim’s Market District after you’ve completed 3 main quests. The last rune can be any Grandmaster version of either Flame, Frost, or Lightning. The best belt for us is easily Andruil’s Blessing, which gives plus 2 to all attributes, plus 20 to nature resistance, plus 10 to physical resistance and plus 20 to nature resistance. You can get this item in the Circle Tower for an absolute lump sum of gold, so save up some gold near the end of the game. The Spellward is our go-to amulet, as it gives us a slew of defensive benefits, such as 30% spell resistance and an additional 10% chance to dodge attacks, and 6 Willpower as well. The two best rings in the game are Key to the City (+2 to all attributes, +4% spell resistance, +10% to healing received) and Lifegiver (+10 Constitution, +3/+6 health regeneration in combat, +3 armor, and +20% to healing received). Key to the City can be obtained by doing its respective quest, and Lifegiver can be bought from Garin in the Orzammar Commons District.
Stat Allocation in Arcane Warrior is pretty simple. Magic is going to take most of your points, for good reason. It increases the damage of all of your spells and weapon attacks. Willpower is your second most important stat, as it increases your mana pool. I typically go with a 2 to 1 ratio of Magic to Willpower at lower levels, until I have a decent sized mana pool, then I simply divert those points into Magic. Constitution is of debatable importance. Having the extra health is good, however, it isn’t as important as Magic, but, it is worthwhile. I personally get 3 points at lower levels into Cunning so that with the stat boosts we get in the Fade, we can get maximum ranks to our Persuasion skill. All told, per 10 stat points, I typically on average put 7 points into Magic, 2 points into Willpower, and 1 into Constitution.
Basics on How to Play This Build:
Unlike the other Mage specializations, this one is meant to be played in melee range. You are by all means a melee/caster hybrid, and a lot of your damage is going to be from your basic weapon attacks. You want to keep up all of your passives up, and of course, pop Blood Magic at the start of the fight. Use Blood Wound and Crushing Prison for big damage, and Heal to save allies in danger of dying. Mind Blast is a great crowd control tool. Overall, this specialization isn’t too hard to play, as it pretty much wins just by being on the battlefield.
Updates for Awakening Expansion
Awakening was very kind to this build, and brought us a perfect complimentary third specialization, Battlemage. It brings us two great new sustained spells in Draining Aura and Elemental Chaos. Draining Aura periodically drains life from enemies and heals you at the expense of a small amount of mana, while Elemental Chaos that deals damage from all elements to enemies, at the expense of rapidly draining mana. I personally keep Draining Aura up at all times, and use Elemental Mastery in a pinch. We also got a very powerful new spell in Hand of Winter, a massive AoE that also freezes enemies. Finally, we get a great passive in Stoic, which restores a bit of mana to you when you take damage. Overall, this specialization compliments the other two perfectly, and unlocking it is quite simple too. Simply purchase it from Ambassador Cera in the Vigil’s Keep throne room for only 11 gold.
Other Good Spells:
Fade Shield is a great passive, as it gives you +5 Spell Resistance and +5 Dodge, and with Arcane Shield active, you get +15 to Spell Resistance and +15% chance to dodge attacks. Since we are a tank, defense is good. Time Spiral is pretty good, too, however, one must mind the expensive mana (or in our case, health) cost. A Cooldown reset for all of our spells it too delicious to ignore, though. Attunement is also a very good passive, as it gives us 10 points in Magic and Willpower and increases your in-combat mana regeneration rate by 2. Very good. I personally don’t like a lot of the other spells that Awakening gave us, simply because a lot of them are sustained spells, and our buff bar is chock full of them already.
For this expansion, I highly recommend keeping your armor and weapons from the last expansion. The reason for this is because their effects are far more powerful than you’ll get in Awakening, even though you may trade some damage. For weapon runes, Paragon Silverite Runes are your best bet, so side with the smugglers in Amaranthine! Just put 3 of them in your sword, and you’ll be more of a Darkspawn killing machine than you were before. They each give a +14 damage bonus to Darkspawn. For armor runes, I’d recommend using 1 Paragon Barrier Rune, 1 Paragon Reservoir Rune, and 1 Paragon Stout Rune in each piece of armor you can enchant. This gives you a good mix of bonus armor, mana, and health. We can replace our Andruil’s Blessing with Belt of the Architect in this expansion, which will give us a +7 boost to Spell power and Willpower. You loot this belt off of the Architect. Seeker’s Chain is our best in slot amulet, as it gives us +2 to all of our attributes, +3 defense, and +1 to your in combat health regeneration. This belt can be bought from Glassric the Weaponsmith in Amaranthine. The best rings are Ring of Mastery (+10 Spellpower) and the Lifegiver ring we already have. Ring of Mastery is looted from Adria’s remains in Vigil’s Keep.