King's Bounty Spell Analysis Part 3: Distortion Magic


Ghost Blade
Crystal Cost: 3 / 6 / 9
Mana Cost: 10 / 10 / 10
Level 1 Statistics: Damage: 100; Ignores 50% Resistance
Level 2 Statistics: Damage: 200; Ignores 75% Resistance
Level 3 Statistics: Damage: 300; Ignores 100% Resistance

A single enemy unit is attacked for Physical damage, ignoring some portion of the target's Physical resistance if it has any.

To be clear, what this means is that Level 1 Ghost Blade will ignore half of the target's resistance, eg treating a Ghost's 50% Physical resistance as 25% Physical Resistance. Level 3 Ghost Blade is thus completely unblockable damage, while Levels 1 and 2 are merely less ineffective.

Cyclops are the main target Ghost Blade is worth considering breaking out for. The only on-demand Magic damage Spell that works on Cyclops at all is Lightning, and it's hideously expensive, risks friendly fire above Level 1, and its damage scales poorly. (A Level 1 Lightning will always do as much or more damage than a Ghost Blade, in raw damage, but at Level 3 about 1/4th of Lightning's damage range is below Ghost Blade damage) At Level 1 Lightning probably makes more sense: Ghost Blade will do 85 base damage at Level 1 for 10 Mana, while Lightning will do 100-200 damage for 15 Mana, which is to say that more than 50% of the time Lightning will have outright better Mana efficiency, in addition to definitely having better per-turn/cast damage. Past Level 1, Lightning becomes riskier, less Mana efficient, and doesn't even necessarily do better damage.

Against most other targets you might consider Ghost Blade for, there's probably a better answer. If they have some Physical resistance, and that's why you're considering Ghost Blade over eg Ice Snake, you can probably hurl a Fireball. Red Dragons and Emerald Green Dragons are worth commentary as Poison is the only damage type they don't resist at all (Aside Astral, but it's not a 'real' damage type at the moment), and Poison Skull is the only Spell for Poison damage at all, with wildly random damage that can easily roll well below Ghost Blade's damage.

That said, Ghost Blade very nearly invalidates Magic Poleaxe starting from Level 2, where it costs the same, does nearly the same damage, and ignores most of the target's Physical resistance. At Level 3 it outright costs less: in fact, Magic Poleaxe costs 50% more with only 20% more damage at that point. This is what I was getting last post about Magic Poleaxe being largely invalidated by Distortion. 

Of course, The Legend is actually Ghost Blade's peak. Past this game, it's actually really hard to justify using it at all... but I'll be getting into that when we get into it.


Geyser
Crystal Cost: 7 / 14 / 28
Mana Cost: 20 / 30 / 40
Level 1 Statistics: Damage: 50-100; Geysers: 4
Level 2 Statistics: Damage: 100-200; Geysers: 6
Level 3 Statistics: Damage: 150-300; Geysers: 8

A randomly chosen set of enemies are hit for Physical damage, with a chance to Freeze targets. The number of Geysers spawned is the maximum number of separate units that can be hit.

I don't know what the Freeze chance is. The game doesn't even mention it, and it's not listed in the .txt file either. It's low enough it's not unusual to hit 6 things with Geyser and have nothing get Frozen, though. Consistent with this is that Geyser is considered to be a 'cold' spell -it does reduced damage to eg Polar Bears.

Mechanically, Geyser is one of the best damage spells in the game, full stop, though upgrading it past Level 2 is a bit eh. Going from 1 to 2 doubles the damage output (On any given target, to be clear) for a 50% increase in the Mana cost and means that against most encounters you'll now hit every unit on the field, even if one of them summons something before you get a chance to cast. Level 3 is... just 50% more damage, for a 33% increase in Mana cost, an outrageous Crystal cost, and the additional Geysers won't matter in the majority of fights. Admittedly the Mage can afford to be pretty spendy with Crystals, but it's certainly something you should probably consider low priority, even if you do eventually make that jump.

Animation-wise, Geysers that are over the enemy unit count go into random unoccupied tiles. As far as I'm aware, this is purely for aesthetic consistency; I used to worry it could potentially hit one of my units, but I've used Geyser tons and never seen that happen.

I don't fully understand Geyser's targeting preferences, but one thing I do know is that it will always prioritize Gremlins in Keeper fights. This is usually useful, since the Gremlins are genuinely the most problematic thing on the field 99% of the time, but it's worth keeping in mind in edge cases where it's annoying, such as when one Gremlin is very nearly dead and wasting a geyser on it is inefficient. In such a situation, it's worth considering if you can finish off the Gremlin some other way before casting Geyser.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, Geyser doing Physical damage is one of its positives. You normally won't see it until the mid-late game, right around when Demons and dragons are becoming a regular problem and significant Physical resistance is relatively rare. Against most battlegroups a Fire Rain that catches 3 or more units will actually often do more damage, but not against Demon or dragon-heavy battlegroups. Poison would be even better against Demons and dragons, but Undead are also pretty prominent for a good chunk of the mid-late game.

Of course, once you're past the point where Fire resistance is so common, Geyser is probably going to be passed over for Fire Rain.

And this is all assuming you're a Mage: Warriors and to a lesser extent Paladins would usually rather cast something whose utility isn't dependent on gearing yourself for high Intellect and investing in Destruction and so on.


Pain Mirror
Crystal Cost: 1 / 2 / 4
Mana Cost: 5 / 7 / 10
Level 1 Statistics: Returns Damage: 75%
Level 2 Statistics: Returns Damage: 100%
Level 3 Statistics: Returns Damage: 125%

Inflicts Magic damage to a single enemy unit, said damage being derived from the damage the unit dealt most recently.

Somewhat surprisingly, Pain Mirror does actually scale to Intellect, so contrary to what you might expect, this isn't a super-Warrior-inclined damage Spell.

Pain Mirror is usually not very good. There's ways to make use of it without suffering army casualties, but those methods tend to have their own problems. Theoretically it'd be useful against Evil Gremlins, since it's really difficult to completely stop them from getting in damage, but Pain Mirror is Magic damage and Gremlins are ridiculously resistant to Magic damage so actually no not really.

Late in the game, when enemy army sizes are ridiculous and the player is generally better off stalling with summons and whatnot, Pain Mirror can easily be doing 20,000 damage to a stack while Armageddon is still only hitting for 7000. Just bait an insanely large stack into murdering eg a Thorn summoned by a Royal Thorn, and there you go. You can even hit them multiple times with Pain Mirror, as it doesn't 'clear' the information on their damage when cast. So it's definitely worth getting at least the first Level at some point!

Note, however, that it goes off the actual damage the unit dealt in HP, not the damage number they rolled. A massive stack listed as doing 10,000 damage to an Ice Thorn won't be retaliated for 20,000 damage off a 200% Pain Mirror. They'll take 2 damage, because the Ice Thorn only had 1 Health. Among other points, this means that when using disposable summons the ones where you're getting poor Health amounts (eg Druids summoning Bears) are basically capping the effectiveness of Pain Mirror. In practice this makes the Royal Thorn Pain Mirror's best friend, since it has pretty decent Health on its spawns, can keep spawning them, and doesn't have to put itself into danger to contribute otherwise in the way that eg Dryads have to close to melee to attack. Necromancers aren't half-bad either, but you need to get kills first to get them started.


Trap
Crystal Cost: 2 / 4 / 6
Mana Cost: 5 / 7 / 10
Level 1 Statistics: Damage: 80-120; Duration: 3 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Damage: 240-360; Duration: 4 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Damage: 400-600; Duration: 5 turns. Poisons target

Places an invisible trap in an unoccupied tile. If a unit enters the tile on foot, the trap triggers, doing Physical damage and immediately ending the unit's turn. The trap vanishes after triggering or after a number of turns have passed.

It's kind of weird how it triples in damage going to Level 2 and gets less than double going from there to Level 3. I guess the developers recognized that leveling it does nothing to improve its effectiveness at slowing down enemy units? Pretty cool, if so.

The King's Bounty games are also surprisingly nuanced about how they handle trap activation. While most units are simple enough -either they'll always activate a trap if they enter the tile, or never do so- any unit that has animations for flying and for walking actually has those animations matter. An Emerald Dragon that decides to walk a couple of tiles forward to melee an enemy will trigger the trap, whereas if that same Emerald Dragon decides to travel so far that the flight animation kicks in (Or travel past obstacles that can't be traversed without flight, either way) then it won't trigger the trap! It's a really cool bit of attention to detail that can also be really, really frustrating, because the game itself doesn't explain this mechanic and it's not obvious whether a given movement path will activate the flight animation or not. (The game will actually display walking boots if the unit will walk and winged boots if they fly, but this is quite easy to overlook. I didn't notice it for years) I think a general rule of thumb is that if a flight unit moves more than 2 tiles in a single move, it goes into flight mode, and I know for a fact that it will always do so if it's traveling in a manner grounded units can't (Over other units, over impassable terrain, whatever) with the caveat that your units aren't 'aware' of your own traps; no, your Emerald Dragon won't just always fly over your own traps to avoid them. It will walk into and trigger one like a dummy if you give it a short walking path. I also suspect there's some individual unit variation further occluding the issue: Snow Falcons in Warriors of the North only seem to walk if you direct them a single tile at a time, for example.

Also note that traps can even interrupt stuff like Talents that involve moving through tiles. The exact list is fairly arbitrary, unfortunately, but it's another nice bit of attention to detail. As a general rule of thumb, if the unit returns to its original position, it doesn't count, while if its position is changed by the attack, it does count. Though I can think of an exception to that rule of thumb that shows up in the later games...

Effects that forcibly move units to a destination are more prone to pushing past Traps, though that's not very relevant in The Legend. Relatedly, Traps only eat all the target's AP if it's the unit's turn/the unit entered the Trap of their own volition. Having an Archmage Telekinesis a unit onto a Trap won't eat the unit's AP. They'll take the damage and, if it was a Level 3 Trap, be Poisoned, but their turn will be unaffected. (Unless the damage was lethal, of course)

Also note that Imps/Scoffer Imps are coded somewhat generously in relation to Traps. Sometimes an Imp or Scoffer Imp will return to its position via a different route than the one it originally used to go out and attack, and in the event that this animates it as passing through a trap? The trap won't trigger. They'll still trigger it on the way out if you pick a route that passes through the trap tile, though, so don't be careless. You just don't have to worry about the game arbitrarily screwing you over through no fault of your own. Awesome!

The Level 3 version Poisoning targets is, unfortunately, not terribly relevant in The Legend. It becomes a bigger deal in the later games. Somewhat.

Lastly, Traps are not actually considered to be a Spell when it comes to activating/damaging the target. If you're good at predicting/manipulating Black Dragons, you can absolutely murder them with Traps, and thankfully Traps are actually are one of the hardest-hitting Spells in the entire game (Well, past the first Level), so if you're a Mage with appropriate stats and Skills for the area, they can easily wipe out entire small-to-midsized stacks of Black Dragons. Of course, you need to arrange to go before them if you want this at all practical, and ideally you have Tactics to let you arrange your troops in tempting ways (Red and Black Dragons in AI hands are really fond of making attacks that let them catch two units at a time. Exploit this!), but it's nice to have the option at all, as Mages really struggle with Black Dragons even with Trap as an option.


Hypnosis
Crystal Cost: 10 / 20 / 30
Mana Cost: 20 / 30 / 40
Level 1 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-2; Leadership: 40% of hero's Leadership
Level 2 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-3; Leadership: 60% of hero's Leadership
Level 3 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-4; Leadership: 80% of hero's Leadership

Takes control of a single enemy unit that is within the Leadership limit, the Level limit, and which is not immune to Mind spells, for 2 turns.

I'd actually not realized Hypnosis scaled to the Hero's Leadership prior to doing research for these posts. For the moment this isn't super-important, as even though different classes have different Level-based Leadership gains, in The Legend you really ought to avoid taking Leadership boosts when leveling until somewhere past the halfway mark of levels. Since the vast majority of class-based Leadership difference is based on Level-derived Leadership, the Warrior isn't notably more effective with Hypnosis than the Mage or anything. Which might be part of why I didn't realize on my own that it's scaled to your Leadership...

Hypnosis itself is a really awesome-sounding Spell that's really pretty close to useless. Early in the game, its scaling being only 40% of your Leadership means basically any fight you can use it in is one where you don't need to do such shenanigans. Once you've got it to Level 3... problem is, the game is scaled so that the further you get in the game, the more the game expects you to be able to take on armies much larger than your own. This is quite justified in general, but it hurts Hypnosis a lot: 80% of your own Leadership doesn't sound so hot when an enemy stack can easily be 2-3 times your own maximum Leadership. You're basically back at the problem of 'if you can use Hypnosis on anything, probably the battle is too easy to really justify bothering or the battle is nearly finished'.

It gets even worse when you consider bugs: I've mentioned that Sheep clears all buffs and debuffs. Thing is, while it wipes Hypnosis' status effect, it doesn't revert control. Even once the Sheeped unit stops being Sheeped, they're still permanently under your control! This is exploitable, I guess, but in practice it can potentially make a Keeper fight literally unwinnable because the battle doesn't end until the Hypnotized unit is dead, even with the Hypnosis status effect cleared. So if you are out of Mana and none of your units has a reloading Talent capable of friendly fire? Too bad, reload your last save! So be careful about Hypnotizing units when facing Gremlins. And against enemy Heroes for that matter!

The bug is corrected in Armored Princess, thankfully, and in general Armored Princess onward makes it a bit more consistently useful, but in The Legend Hypnosis is primarily useful as a clunky way of using Sacrifice without using up any of your own units. If you want to go out of your way to leverage it, you can do stuff like focus fire on a key target and then Hypnotize them to distract the rest of the enemy group, but... you're going out of your way to make use out of a very pricey Spell. The Crystal cost is especially crushing for the Warrior and Paladin, making it very difficult to justify maxing out Hypnosis when it's costing you access to so many other, more consistently useful and cheaper Spells.


Magic Shackles
Crystal Cost: 2 / 2 / 20
Mana Cost: 10 / 10 / 40
Level 1 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-3
Level 2 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-4
Level 3 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-4, Mass

Affected units are unable to use their Talents for 2 turns. (Before Intellect extension)

I'm not a fan of Magic Shackles, to be honest. If a unit isn't immune to Mind spells, Fear is basically flatly better, and Trap is usually better for shutting down melee foes. There's only a handful of units that have Talents worth shutting down with Magic Shackles that aren't either immune to it or susceptible to another effect. (It would be nice to Shackle Giants so they can't use Earthquake, but they're a Level 5 unit so that's a no-go) Necromancers and Demonesses are basically the only units I've ever used it on, personally, though obviously your luck with Scrolls and units is an important factor.

As your Intellect climbs, Magic Shackles starts to gain a niche (As multiple of the other lockdown Spells don't scale with Intellect at all), and it's Level 3 version being able to potentially cripple an entire enemy army definitely gives it a solid niche, but prior to those two points mattering Magic Shackles tends to be a bit underwhelming.

Interestingly, Magic Shackles is actually placed in the Chaos section of the Spells.txt file. This is consistent with the fact that the other two Spells-as-Talents that Necromancers get are Chaos magic, and when you consider the internal designation is 'magic bondage' and how Demonesses have a bondage element to their design... that's not exactly surprising! I guess they decided it was too abstract/supporting-role-y for Chaos Magic?


Slow
Crystal Cost: 2 / 5 / 12
Mana Cost: 5 / 7 / 12
Level 1 Statistics: Speed: -1; Duration: 2 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Speed: -2; Duration: 3 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Speed: -3; Duration: 3 turns

Lowers a single enemy unit's Speed. If the victim was under the effect of Haste, Haste is purged as well.

I'm not sure why Slow Level 3 has such a big spike in Crystal and Mana cost. The majority of units in the game are 3 Speed or less, making Level 3 no gain at all (It can't reduce Speed below 1), and it doesn't pick up duration or become mass-cast or gain any weird secondary effects like... I dunno, Poisoning the target? It's particularly puzzling a situation because Slow in the classic Heroes of Might and Magic games does become mass when maxed. I have to wonder if Slow was intended at some point to become mass, and its pricepoint wasn't adjusted properly when they changed their mind, or something like that.

Or maybe whoever set its numbers didn't realize it has nothing over Level 2 against 90% of the game's units?

Even what few units have more than 3 Speed... are usually 5 or more Speed. It's only a big jump against the small number of units that are exactly 4 Speed.

Still, Level 1 Slow can be an incredible support tool in the early game, and Level 2 Slow is useful on and off all the way into the endgame. Regardless of your class, delaying enemies reaching your lines can be incredibly useful, particularly if you're taking advantage of units that maneuver for some kind of advantage in the opening turns; summoning units, bestowing powerful buffs on the army, etc. Aside Spell-immune units (So basically Black Dragons), nothing is immune to Slow, and while eg Trap will often do the job better in the short term (Especially against Running units) Slow has the advantage of a single casting stalling a unit for multiple turns. Since its duration scales with Intellect, Level 2 Slow backed by 15+ Intellect lets you basically ignore the target unit for 4 turns after one casting, which is pretty difficult for other Spells to match.

Of course, Slow's biggest problem is that slow-ish melee is usually the lowest-priority target in the first place, but that's less a flaw than you might think. AI armies are pretty routinely made primarily or entirely out of slow-ish melee anyway, at which point the only thing holding Slow back is whether you can stall or disable a unit more effectively with some other option. (Again: Running units are hurt more by a first-turn Trap than by a first-turn Slow)

Slow can also be useful for letting you kite enemies, a utility only Haste comes close to matching if you get a fight down to a single enemy unit... and Haste really needs to be Level 3 to be competing with Slow in that type of scenario. So Slow is a pretty clear winner in that situation. Its affordability, in particular, keeps it ahead of a lot of other options that are technically more effective but far pricier. (eg Sheep)

I like Slow a lot. It's a useful Spell with decent niches that nothing quite manages to out-compete it in, without being actually one-dimensional, boring, or 'I win in X situation'.


Pygmy
Crystal Cost: 4 / 8 / 12
Mana Cost: 5 / 10 / 20
Level 1 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-2; Health: -20%; Damage: -20%
Level 2 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-3; Health: -30%; Damage: -30%
Level 3 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-4; Health: -40%; Damage: -40%

Lowers a single enemy unit's Health and the damage of their basic attacks for 2 turns. Also disables certain Talents.

Some elements of the game indicate that Pygmy lowers Attack, but no, they modify the actual base damage directly. This is a good thing, as it means Pgymy's utility isn't reduced by your Defense rising.

Also note that Pygmy does not scale with Intellect. At all. Not its penalties, not its duration.

I'm not entirely sure what the exact list of Talents disabled by Pygmy looks like. I know Lunge on the snake family is disabled by it, and I suspect by a similar token Biting Strike on Robbers and Marauders is in that list, but I don't use Pygmy very often myself and it's only found on some Heroes, so it's not something that regularly crops up. As such, you might want to experiment with Pygmy yourself more than I do, as it may be more useful than you think.

Though I wince a little at how it's another spell that makes Magic Shackles dubious...

Also note that Pygmy is one of two Spells that can be used to effectively enhance the damage of Spells and Rage attacks in general, aside Soul Draining because it's percentage damage. (The other Spell being Plague) A unit having 40% less Health means your damage is nearly doubled, effectively. It's too bad Rage isn't very viable in the long haul, but still. It also actually stacks with Plague, so you can drastically extend the effectiveness of your Rage attacks with a Necromancer and even a low-Level Pygmy usage, which is particularly worth keeping in mind for the Warrior given their Spells tend to be a bit weak while their Rage is easy to come by and, thanks to how Rage experience works, will often be ahead in strength as well at any given point in the game.

I personally don't use Pygmy very often, but it has tons of potential.

Blind
Crystal Cost: 4 / 8 / 12
Mana Cost: 10 / 15 / 20
Level 1 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-2
Level 2 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-3
Level 3 Statistics: Target's Level: 1-4

A single enemy unit is completely disabled for 2 turns. The effect ends if it takes damage.

One of only three spells in the game to interact with the Eyeless trait. Also a good example of why I don't like Magic Shackles -if you can Blind a target, that completely shuts it down, instead of just turning off its Talents. Eyeless is a rare trait, and none of the handful of units that has it is some Talent fiend either -in fact, enemy Thorns spending their turn using their Talents is usually them not costing you gold by killing your units, so in most situations I'd much rather they use their Talent!

On the other hand, Blind does not scale to Intellect. That 2 turns is all you can ever get out of it, and re-applying it every other turn can be a logistical problem and/or burn through Mana way too fast. (Especially when trying to keep a Level 4 unit locked down) Incidentally, as with Sheep, Blind is a Spell you should make an effort to cast the lowest-Level version that will work.

Note that damage-over-time effects will end Blind, but the unit's turn will be lost before the damage is applied. As such, while Blinding a Poisoned or Burned target is inefficient, if you really just need them out of the way for a single turn it will actually work, so long as you don't hit them with other forms of damage. It's also a good idea to try to delay actually applying Blind until as close to the target's turn as you can, especially later in the game when you've got a lot of massively area-of-effect Rage attacks: Blinding a target and then using Underground Blades is just a waste of Mana.

By far the biggest use for Blind is shutting down overly-large stacks of ranged attackers, such as Bowmen. Melee units can usually be stalled and/or worn down to prevent them from doing damage. Ranged attackers just need a turn, basically. As a bonus, the game is biased toward ranged units being down in the middle-bottom range: Royal Thorns and Cyclops are the only truly ranged Level 5 units (And Royal Thorns are immune to Blind due to Eyeless anyway), so once you've got Distortion Level 3 Blind works on nearly every ranged unit in the game. Only Thorn Hunters are added to the above list. For a Mage Thorn Hunters are trivially dealt with by hitting them with Fireball or Fire Rain. For everyone else, Thorn Hunters mostly show up super early in the game, only occasionally appearing outside of Darion. Even in the Elflands you'll usually only see Thorn Hunters by virtue of Royal Thorns or Dryads spawning Thorns. So Blind is actually shockingly reliable as a way to let you ignore a ranged stack for a couple of turns without problems.

Also note that while Blind will end if a unit takes damage, if their turn has already come and gone when this happens they won't abruptly get their turn as a result. This can be a bit counterintuitive if you're coming at the game from, say, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, where a Blinded unit will absolutely get a turn in whatever turn it's un-Blinded, regardless of whether their turn was originally passed over or not. As such, it's possible to actually keep a unit locked down with Blind while still getting in damage: just wait until after Blind has eaten their turn, then do the damage, then re-Blind them. This is Mana-intensive, but it's worth keeping in mind if only in terms of that when it comes time to turn your attention to the Blinded unit, if they're still Blind you should use Wait to get their turn eaten and then start attacking, regardless of whether you intend to re-Blind them. If you're patient, and have other stuff in consideration like how Royal Thorns and Dryads have reloading summons, it might be worth considering just letting the Blind run out, attack, then re-apply it until you feel more ready to take on the stack. (Such as when you've managed to scrape through a fight your forces really shouldn't have won, and are down to fighting one stack that's still huge)

Berserk
Crystal Cost: 2 / 4 / 6
Mana Cost: 2 / 3 / 4
Level 1 Statistics: Attack: +75%; Target's Level: 1-2; Duration: 3 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Attack: +100%; Target's Level: 1-3; Duration: 4 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Attack: +125%; Target's Level: 1-4; Duration: 5 turns

A single allied unit increases its Attack, but control is removed from the player. Units that are immune to Mind effects can't be affected.

Berserk is borderline-useless. On the face of it, dramatically spiking Attack sounds amazing, but the mechanics of the game conspire to make it fairly terrible. For weak units, their base Attack is too low to get any significant benefit out of it, since it's a percentile effect. For strong units, their Attack is so high that unless you're up against high-Defense units they probably shoot well past the cap on benefiting from Attack. So basically it's only really good on units that have moderate amounts of Attack (20-40 sort of range) or specifically when using high-end units against high-end units. And only if your high-end units in this scenario aren't Undead, Black Dragons, or anything else immune, like Ancient Ents.

It does incorporate added Attack effects like your Hero's Attack stat, so it's less terrible on low-end units than I'm implying here, but it's still fairly weak, and at the beginning of the game it really is basically useless since your Attack will be low and you can only target low-Level units that thus have low base Attack. So it takes a while to start having a chance to be decent. It's further hampered by how immunity to mental effects is actually surprisingly common: you're not going to be slapping it onto Thorn Warriors spawned by your Royal Thorn or Dryad because the Thorn Warriors are immune to Berserk anyway. Nor on anything your Necromancer stack animates.

The fact that it actually takes control of the unit away from you is basically just a bonus bit of awful. The AI will almost never cooperate with whatever you'd prefer to do, won't move around your own Traps, won't Wait (If you outright blockade them in, they'll use Defend instead), and in general tends to make dubious decisions. On top of all that it means you can't use their turn to cast a Spell or use a Rage attack, which can take opportunities away from you.

The only really nice things I have to say about it is that it's dirt-cheap to cast and that it's technically not too awful on ranged units, since the mindless aggression, while problematic, is not nearly so problematic as it is on melee units. It means they won't wait for enemies to step into their effective range, but even that can be somewhat worked around: just Wait, then Berserk them once the enemies have taken their turns.

It's worth commentary that since units summoned by Demon Portal or a Demon-the-unit are out of your control anyway, there's nothing lost by slapping Berserk onto them. So if you don't have anything better to do with your Spellcasting on a turn and you've got these uncontrolled summons running around anyway, why not?

Haste
Crystal Cost: 2 / 5 / 15
Mana Cost: 3 / 5 / 10
Level 1 Statistics: Speed: +1; Duration: 3 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Speed: +2; Duration: 4 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Speed: +2, Mass; Duration: 4 turns

Affected allies gain additional Speed/Action Points. (This won't give units an additional turn if they've already ended their turn) If the affected unit(s) were under the affect of Slow, Slow is purged as well.

And here's the big reason why Fit of Energy is generally dubious to use to extend a unit's movement within its own turn. Why do that when Haste matches the movement range extension up until Level 3, while costing far less Mana? And Haste lasts for multiple turns, too. Of course, if the unit is already benefiting from Haste, that's a bit different, but it's fairly rare that you'll both want that kind of movement range extension and be in a position to combine them. You basically have to be a Mage running a strangely slow-moving army and abuse Higher Magic to cast Haste and Fit of Energy back to back for that to make sense.

Anyway, Haste itself is really good in general. It can be used to get turn order advantage -since Speed is the first tiebreaker when Initiative is equal- and allow ranged units to kite melee units, let melee units close faster, or open the way for hit-and-run shenanigans involving Waiting, attacking after the target's turn is done, and then backing off next turn out of their reach to Wait again. (This is obviously most worth trying to pull off with No Retaliation attackers) If you're a Mage it probably won't see much use -you'll be too busy flinging Fireballs- but it's pretty much a bread-and-butter Spell for the Warrior (Once they get access, which is liable to take a while) and to a lesser extent Paladin, because it's so consistently useful.

Special note should be made for how it turns mass-cast at Level 3. Slow will often be the better choice for various circumstances prior to getting Distortion 3: if you want your ranged units to kite a melee unit, Slowing the melee unit is easier than casting Haste on each of your units separately. With Distortion 3, Haste will usually be better, because in many situations the outcome is the same thing but better. In fact, it's cheaper than level 3 Slow!

Even when you're playing defensively and just waiting for the enemy to come to you, Haste is surprisingly useful, especially if your army composition includes slow units like Royal Thorns or Giants.

Even with really fast armies, Haste is still useful: pushing some of your units that can almost cross the entire field in one turn to being able to do so can be the difference between crippling some enemy ranged units vs leaving them free to do maximum damage on whatever target they like. 

Precision
Crystal Cost: 2 / 4 / 6
Mana Cost: 2 / 4 / 6
Level 1 Statistics: Damage: +20%; Duration: 3 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Damage: +30%; Duration: 4 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Damage: +30%, Mass; Duration: 5 turns

Affected ranged attackers have their base damage increased.

I've never fiddled around with Precision much, so I'm not entirely sure what all units are an are not affected by Precision. Going by the code, I think it might be literally any ranged attacker, period, aside from Eyeless blocking it, but I've never sat down and actually tested it. Probably the biggest point in its favor is that it is a rare example of a spell whose Level 3 form turns mass that doesn't have its Crystal and Mana prices spike at that step. Would definitely be nice for a ranged-focused army. Which, hey, the player really ought to go for ranged-focused armies, so it's worth keeping in mind in general! And notice how it can be compared to the boost that eg Demon Slayer provides, except it works against any target. Precision is arguably the biggest problems with the Slayer Spells, as a result. It's not like there's any strong argument for using melee units in specific for trying to take on Demons or dragons.

Do keep in mind the 'doesn't work on Eyeless units' thing. (Which I have tested, and it's true) It's not really a big deal, since it only matters to Royal Thorns and Thorn Hunters, but that also means it's easier to forget about it when planning.

That said, Precision's application is fairly straightforward, so there's not a ton to say about it. Just keep in mind the duration scales with Intellect but not the damage boost.

Magic Spring
Crystal Cost: 2 / 4 / 6
Mana Cost: 5 / 5 / 5
Level 1 Statistics: Defense: +10%; Duration: 3 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Defense: +20%; Duration: 4 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Defense: +30%; Duration: 5 turns

A single allied unit bolsters its Defense by a percentage. Every time the affected unit takes damage, the unit's controller gains 5 Mana and the duration of the buff decreases by 1 turn.

Magic Spring is a nice spell for increasing your Spell sustainability, and if used right can actually give you infinite Mana within a battle! The Defense increase is a nice bonus, too, though if you're using it for the Defense primarily it's probably because you don't have one of the better options. Either that or you're trying to stack all the durability boosters onto one unit and have already done all the others, I guess?

Its utility tends to drop off later in the game, though, as its Mana generation per hit is fixed while your Mana consumption will tend to climb, especially as a Mage. Better to just use Higher Magic to kill everything in one turn and then wait for your Mana to recover between fights than to mess around with Magic Spring, basically. It's a bit more appealing for non-Mages, who might be drawn to it for the fact that it helps extend their more limited Mana pools while supporting their stronger armies, but it still tends to drop off over time. Still, during the early-to-mid-game, it's pretty great, and I quite like it as a spell! It's unique and interesting, and it's nice that it only needs to trigger one time for you to break even.

Note that its duration is scaled to Intellect as well. This helps make up for its issues with falling off later in the game, but you really do just burn through increasingly large amounts of Mana as you progress, with doubled costs being fairly typical on individual Spells and plenty of Spells actually quadrupling their costs in going from Level 1 to Level 3.

Stone Skin
Crystal Cost: 1 / 2 / 4
Mana Cost: 3 / 5 / 7
Level 1 Statistics: Defense and Physical Resistance: +20%; Duration: 3 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Defense and Physical Resistance: +30%; Duration: 4 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Defense and Physical Resistance: +40%; Duration: 5 turns

A single allied unit has its Defense and Physical Resistance increased by a percentage, but its Initiative is lowered by 1.

Stone Skin is technically generally useful due to the Defense increase, but in practice it's primarily useful for the increase in Physical resistance. Though the Defense is nice, and contributes to it tending to push out Divine Armor.

Do keep in mind the Initiative penalty. It's honestly not usually a big deal, but it's easy to get used to throwing it around without consequence and then have it create big problems because the fight you're in has Initiative tiers work out so it's a big drop. It's too bad the game doesn't have a turn-modification feedback effect so you can just see ahead of time what the Initiative penalty will do to turn order. It's even more too bad no later game introduces such a thing. Alas.

As I covered with Divine Armor, Stone Skin seems superficially more limited, but it's cheaper and the vast majority of damage in the game is Physical, so it's honestly a lot more general. The only times it really suffers on a consistent basis are when you're facing dragon-heavy battlegroups in the late game and irregularly in combat against Elven forces. (Which have a surprising number of Magic damage attackers, as well as the half-Poison ranged attacks on Treants and Ancient Treants)

Though as with Precision, its usage is fairly straightforward: drop it on a unit you expect to get into fairly serious combat. (Ancient) Vampire Bats are one of the better choices, since the more of them survive being hurt the easier it is for them to undo casualties, leading into a bit of a positive feedback loop that exaggerates the payoff from Stone Skin.

An interesting aside: as I mentioned with Battle Cry, the .txt file is mostly organized by Spell sphere. Where Battle Cry is placed in the Distortion magic section, Stone Skin is actually placed in the Order magic section. I'm kind of curious as to why it got shifted to Distortion. Certainly, Order seems to use more abstract effects (How does Divine Armor improve protection? Magic! How does Stone Skin improve protection? Using magic to make your skin out of stone, which is an actual mechanical explanation), so perhaps they felt Stone Skin didn't fit to it... or maybe they felt Distortion was a little anemic? I'm really curious, but oh well.

Invisibility
Crystal Cost: 3 / 6 / 9
Mana Cost: 10 / 20 / 30
Level 1 Statistics: Duration: 2 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Duration: 3 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Duration: 4 turns

A single allied unit is rendered invisible to the enemy, rendering them un-targetable. The effect ends prematurely if they attack or use any Talent.

Invisibility is a bit of an odd Spell that can take a bit to wrap your head around, as the usual mechanical utility of invisibility in a video game is to perform stealth-based shenanigans, but there's no in-battle stealth mechanics in The Legend so that obviously can't apply.

What Invisibility actually does, in terms of utility, is offer the single most foolproof protection for a single target in the entire game. You have a unit you absolutely, positively, 100% don't want getting hit right now? Slap Invisibility on it. So long as it doesn't get caught in area of effect Talents or the like, it's untouchable. (Outside of the handful of Eyeless units) If there's some form of chokepoint on the battlefield, it's even exploitable, as units can't pass through an Invisible unit and won't, say, bump into them and clear the Invisibility.

A particular exploit that can technically be used to win arbitrarily large battles is to take a stack of Emerald Green Dragons -and nothing else- and exploit their two Talents and Invisibility. Since both their Talents can be used to inflict damage without retaliation and Mana Source can easily cover Invisibility's cost by hitting multiple units, a single stack of Emerald Green Dragons can use Waiting to force all the enemy units to use up their turn, break the Invisibility for a free attack, then put Invisibility on them next turn. Pass turns as necessary to recharge their Talents, and wear down arbitrarily large armies, so long as nothing out-Initiatives the Emerald Green Dragons. It's very silly, and probably the main reason Armored Princess promptly nerfs the Emerald Green Dragon's Mana generation.

I personally almost never use Invisibility because it's only rarely necessary to go that far in trying to protect a unit and my usual priority is to make the enemies dead as a way of protecting my units, but it's certainly worth keeping in mind. Especially in Keeper fights, where it's basically the only way to protect a unit from Gremlins.

Target
Crystal Cost: 2 / 6 / 10
Mana Cost: 3 / 6 / 12
Level 1 Statistics: Duration: 1 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Duration: 2 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Duration: 3 turns

A single allied unit is made more appealing of a target.

I'm not sure what situations Target is legitimately useful in, especially since I have no idea how reliable it actually is. I've messed around with it some, and I've seen units ignore the Targeted unit entirely even when it was within range to be attacked, so it's not like it perfectly draws all enemy attention. There's also just a lot of ways to manipulate the AI with unit positioning and the like that don't burn your spellcasting turn, so if you're wanting to influence AI targeting to achieve some effect, Target seems a bit redundant of a spell.

Points for creativity, but as far as I can tell it's not actually worth learning, let alone leveling.

Shroud
Crystal Cost: 2 / 4 / 6
Mana Cost: 5 / 5 / 5
Level 1 Statistics: Ranged Damage: -10%; Duration: 2 turns
Level 2 Statistics: Ranged Damage: -20%; Duration: 3 turns
Level 3 Statistics: Ranged Damage: -30%; Duration: 4 turns

A 7 tile circle is produced, reducing damage of ranged attackers within the effect.

Shroud is counter-intuitive (I'd expect to use it on the units I want to protect, not the units I want to debuff), and somewhat underwhelming a spell I have only used to see what it does and looks like.

The notion of protecting yourself from ranged attacks is admirable, but the execution is a bit lacking. There are so many other, better ways of impairing a ranged unit. Note the math problem in particular: the best Shroud does is lower their damage by 30%, when just planting a unit next to them will reduce their damage by 50% and force them to eat a counterattack to boot. Shroud is only worth considering when there's multiple ranged units clumped together that you can't shut down by setting one of your units in their reach. (Whether because you can't get the unit into position or because the terrain means the ranged attacks will be able to just walk out of reach) Which has the problem the game almost always keeps ranged attackers as a minority of enemy forces, and worse yet often they're spaced out so you can't catch more than 2 of them with Shroud. At that point you're better off Blinding one of them or something.

Also note that Eyeless units ignore it completely. Don't waste it on Thorns!

I like it in principle, but it's just badly designed. Thankfully the developers seem to agree with me, because the very next game combines it with Greasy Mist to make an actually decent spell!

Phantom
Crystal Cost: 3 / 6 / 9
Mana Cost: 15 / 20 / 25
Level 1 Statistics: Phantom Health: 20%
Level 2 Statistics: Phantom Health: 30%
Level 3 Statistics: Phantom Health: 40%

Targets an allied unit to generate a phantom version of the unit that lasts for three turns. The phantom's stack size is derived from a percentage of the unit being copied, going off of Health, though the initial unit number is only ever 'whole numbers'. (The new stack can be eg 1 troop or 2 troops, not 2 troops where the second one has only half health) This phantom is a completely fresh unit (Its Talents are fresh, even if the unit being copied has used up all its Talents), but it leaves no corpse when it dies.

Phantom is an amazing multipurpose spell that can be used to create meatshields, generate additional uses of Talents with utility not affected/only partially affected by unit count (eg Ice Arrows slowing enemy units), slow down enemies with physical blockades, generate additional units to go collect Chests before the enemy can take them from you, improve your army's damage output...

... though note that the phantom unit is not entirely alike to the original version. They can't be used as Sacrifice fodder, for example, and you can't leech Health out of them. (Which is actually really nice, unless it's being used against you of course) They also die instantly if Dispel hits them, unless it's a friendly Level 3 Dispel, because their timer is dictated by a positive buff on them: the buff ends? They die.

Note that, like Gift, Phantom can be used as a way to indirectly step on other Spell's toes. A Phantom Inquisitor stack can Resurrect, for example. (Though this is actually less effective than Gifting the original stack, since it does scale) Similarly, you can use Phantom on Lake Fairies to get a Level 2 Dispel, even if you're actually still stuck at Level 1 Order, while also generating a meatshield that can attack without retaliation. In general, Phantom is one of the more creativity-rewarding Spells in the game, since its possibilities come directly off of the units available to you. (With the caveat that you can't make a Phantom of a Spell-immune unit)

Curiously, Phantom's Health percentage effect scales with Intellect. It's not a major thing, but it's there.

Teleport
Crystal Cost: 2 / 5 / 15
Mana Cost: 5 / 8 / 12
Level 1 Statistics: Range: 3
Level 2 Statistics: Range: 5
Level 3 Statistics: Range: Unlimited

Moves a friendly unit to a targeted cell within a certain number of tiles of the units starting location with no regard for intervening objects.

This is one of those spells you should remember to be casting the lower-level version. (ie use the Level 1 version if you're only moving the unit 3 tiles anyway) It's also one of those Spells that doesn't scale with Intellect, period.

Teleport is the other big part of why Fit of Energy is mostly something you should use for a second turn, rather than extending an existing turn. The Level 1 version of Teleport is worth just as many tiles of movement as the Level 3 version of Fit of Energy, while costing 25% what Fit of Energy costs!

I tend to forget about Teleport, but it's another of those Spells whose potential is more limited by your creativity than anything else. You can use it to attack in melee, and then pull the unit out of enemy reach, or dump a melee unit in reach of enemy ranged, or kite with ranged units by just zipping them out of reach, or use it to jump past obstacles, or use it to get a unit with some form of melee splash in reach before the enemy gets a chance to move, and so on. It's particularly helpful to units that don't Soar, aren't Phantoms, and don't Fly, of course, but it's quite nice in general.

-----------------------------------

Distortion as a school is pretty weird. The main semi-common thread is stuff that could be viewed as 'spacetime distortion' type stuff (Even Precision could be viewed as falling under this banner: just assume the buff is conspiring to guide the projectile toward its target through such shenanigans), but other than it's a bit of an odd collection. I'm always surprised to remember Berserk isn't Chaos, for example (It's not even in the wrong .txt file section like Magic Shackles is, so they seem to have been quite confident on this choice), and I really have no idea why Geyser is in here either. I'm not criticizing these decisions, keep in mind, just pointing out that Distortion has the fuzziest concept.

The end result is that Distortion is a grab-bag of useful concepts, which actually makes it one of the better Spell spheres to focus on if you're not sure what to prioritize. (If you're a Mage: CHAOS) It gives you a solid single-target damage Spell (Ghost Blade), one of the better mass-target damage Spells (Geyser), multiple different ways to get better battlefield control (Slow, Haste, Trap, others in less obvious ways), and it's also notable that Distortion has a lot of Spells where Intellect scaling is irrelevant (eg Blind) or not crucial to the Spell's functionality. (Trap is an interesting example, since Intellect scaling makes it into a good damaging Spell, but it's useful for stopping units regardless. Pain Mirror's damage scales to Intellect, but it doesn't need good Intellect to do astonishing amounts of damage) This last point means Distortion is particularly worth building up if you're not interested in building yourself in a Mage-y way.

Which is where the color-coding/Rune-coding gets a bit weird, since these elements point toward it being the Paladin's Spell sphere or the Mage's Spell sphere, and yet it's really the Warrior who likes Distortion most.

Anyway, next time we get started on Rage in The Legend, starting with Zerock.

Comments

Popular Posts