Dragon Age Origins Arcane Warrior tutorial
Dragon Age Origins (PC):
Arcane Warrior Guide, by
Erik Fasterius, firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2009 Erik Fasterius
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Just smalltalk before we get to the good bits...
1.1 What is the Arcane Warrior?
1.2 How to use this guide
What you need and how to allocate your points.
Character fluff and optionals.
Ah, now we're talking! The meat of the guide.
4.6 Arcane Warrior Spells
A choice of two: Blood Mage or Spirit Healer.
5.1 Blood Mage
5.2 Spirit Healer
5.3 Shapeshifter (and why it's worthless)
The tactical aspects - trying to keep it spoiler free.
7.0 COMBAT & TACTICS
You've got your build, but how do you use it?
7.1 Using spells efficiently
7.3 General Combat
8.0 PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
What does YOUR Arcane Warrior look like?
If you don't want the story ruined, don't read this.
9.1 Unlocking Arcane Warrior
9.2 Unlocking Blood Mage
9.3 Unlocking Spirit Healer and Ranger
9.5 The Mage Tower
9.6 Tome Locations
Nightmare too easy? (includes some spoilers)
11.0 CREDITS, VERSION HISTORY, ETC
The boring bits...
11.1 Credit where credit is due
11.2 Who can use this guide?
11.3 Version History
Alright, welcome to the guide! I'm Erik, just some guy from Sweden spending
perhaps too much time playing games when he should be studying... I enjoy making
guides, I've made a couple, mostly these type of character building guides. It's
my way to give back to the community, where I lurk from time to time. You'll
rarely, if ever, see me post anything in the forums, but sometimes a guide like
this pops up from nowhere.
1.1 What is the Arcane Warrior?
Remeber seeing that specialization for the first time? "A mage, using armour and
wielding weapons? Yeah, that's not right..." And you quickly dismissed it for
being utterly useless. Well, let me tell you, it's far from useless! The Arcane
Warrior is THE best fortified class in the game, easily surpassing warriors and
other mages alike in terms of pure survivability. It has tons of armour, defense
and all types of resistances! And don't forget the spells...
The Arcane Warrior is an interesting combination of concepts. It blends, quite
seamlessly, the spells of a mage and the survivability of a warrior. Massive
armour, damage from both spells and melee prowess and utility abilities makes
the Arcane Warrior one of the most versatile classes in Dragon Age: Origins
(henceforth DA:O). It does require some careful planning and tinkering for it
to work, though, and that's what this guide is for!
1.2 How to use this guide
This is a guide. Not a step-by-step build, set in stone. Not a walkthrough. A
guide to help you build your OWN Arcane Warrior, not someone else's. This is a
collection of thoughts and ideas on the class from my points of view, and I'm
pretty sure there are a bunch of other, equally valid views, other than mine.
Keep this in mind when you're reading!
I'll gladly accept any other tips and tricks you might know that I don't! Feel
free to send me a mail with anything you think might be added to what's already
written here. Praise and constructive critisism isn't also most welcome. But,
please, DO NOT ask me about the story, some quest, choice or "How do I find X?",
pretty please! This is NOT a walkthrough! There are the forums for that... You
can find my email at the top of this page.
You can easily search through this guide by using CTRL+F and a search word. All
the sections have numbers associated with them, for easier reference.
One last note before we get into the guide itself is that I'm playing on a PC.
If there are variations from the PC and XBOX/PS3, then what you play on and what
I've written here might not coincide. Let me know if there ARE such differences.
With all that said, let's just straight in!
Ok, you've just started your character, how do you allocate your attributes?
Well, an Arcane Warrior can, depending on second specialization, need a bit of
You don't need ANY strength! Not one point. This is one of the beauties of the
Arcane Warrior; your first specialization skill gives you a passive ability to
use your Magic stat instead of Strength for determining whether or not you can
equip your armour or weapons. So, no points here!
This is a bit trickier. One of the drawbacks of an Arcane Warrior is your hit-
rate. You'll find yourself missing your enemies quite alot in the beginning, as
Magic won't contribute to your attack stat as for strength would for normal
melee classes. However, with all the buffs and goodies you'll have later on you
will probably get by quite alright without putting any points into Dexterity.
Still, a few points might be just what you need if you feel your hit-rate really
lacking. Get a feel for your character, and wait until you've got most of your
sustainables before you start putting points here.
Ah, the great balancing act of mana and sustainables, this is where it's all at.
The Arcane Warrior fights with his sustainable spells rather than throwing lots
of spells around all the time, which means his effective mana pool will be more
like a mana puddle, regardless of how much Willpower he has. What you need to
consider here is how many sustainables you will be using regularly and how much
mana to spare you want in terms of utility and *oh, crap!*-effectiveness.
For a Blood Mage, however, you won't need this as much, since you can cast your
spells from your hit points instead of from your mana (more on this later). Make
sure you can use all the sustainables you want, and that's it. For those that
aren't Blood Mages having a bit more Willpower can never be a bad thing. Don't
neglect this stat, or you'll find yourself not only not being able to cast any
spell, but you won't even be able to activate your sustainables!
A Blood Mage might end up with around 20-30 Willpower, and other mages somewhere
above that. There are items in the game that increases your mana, however, and
these are CRITICAL for the Arcane Warrior. You can read about some of these down
in the Spoilers section.
You won't need this at all, leave it to the rogues. The only reason to have any
points here at all would be the Coercion skill, and for that you'll not need
This is your Strength. With enough Magic you can equip any armour and weapon in
the game without having to use Strength at all. Magic is also needed to be able
to learn most of the spells. The biggest and best armours require 42 Magic.
Magic also affects how much Spellpower you get. I'm not 100% sure on this, but I
believe that Spellpower is calculated as [Magic - 10]. This means that when
increasing Magic by one, you will also increase Spellpower by one. Spellpower is
important to you as it'll increase both your damage with spells (and their
general effectiveness as well) AND your melee damage.
You should aim for somewhere around 40-50 in the Magic attribute.
The effectiveness of this attribute is greatly dependent on your second choice
of specialization. (You can read about the other specializations below). Blood
Mages need this attribute quite alot, as it powers their spellcasting, but
Spirit Healers will have enough healing to be able to have less hit points to
play around with. Still, any character will want SOME Constitution, or they
won't survive long enough to get a heal.
Blood Mages should pour everything into Constitution that they don't need for
their other attributes. Plan ahead!
So, you know how much of the attributes you need, but WHEN do you need them?
Well, keep in mind that for at least the first 7 levels, you are a normal mage.
You'll be using a staff and casting spells like any other mage. This means that
you need Magic and Willpower. You probably want to spike your Magic the first
few levels to gain access to the spells you want and add a sprinkle of Willpower
at the same time. You should leave the rest of the attributes until later.
As you gain levels, continue to add points into Magic and Willpower until you
reach your goal. If you need more +attack, add some Dexterity, but don't do this
until you've got all your sustainables, so you know whether or not you actually
NEED the +attack, or if it was just because you lacked a level or two.
If you're going the Blood Mage route you really don't need to start to add any
points to Constitution until level 10+, as you won't use it much until then. You
should, however, add a few points in the early levels for all characters, just
for added general survivability.
If you're going to be using the Coercion skill, only add Cunning to those levels
where you get a skill point. You might consider going to the Circle of Mages as
your first (or second, depending on what you have unlocked) stop after Lothering
just for the attribute increases for this reason, so you won't have to add any
more Cunning than you need.
Ok, this is the shortest section of the guide, simply because skills aren't that
big of a deal in DA:O. They're the "other" stuff of your character, some skills
that you can do on the side of your normal combat skills. Mages only get one
skill per three levels, meaning you can max about two of them.
Now, the Combat Training skills will give you some small amount of mana regen
(rank 2) and decreased chance of loosing a spell from being hit while casting.
This is semi-useful, having a spell fizzle really is annoying, especially when
you don't cast that many spells to begin with.
Poison Making is the only other skill that's actually very good for your Arcane
Warrior. You can throw some splash-damage around, plus having more damage on
your weapons can't be bad, can it?
As for the rest of the skills, they're all kind of *meh*. Coercion is good if
you want those extra dialogue options, although I have to say that the skill
disappointed me in not doing as much for DA:O as similar skill does for other
Stealing, Survival, Herbalism, Trap-making and Combat Tactics are even more of
*meh*. An Arcane Warrior don't need more Tactic slots, you're just going to be
auto-attacking anyway, and when you need to do something other than auto-attack,
you really shouldn't do it via tactics, but rather do it manually. Herbalism and
Trap-making you can leave to some companion, the same goes for Stealing. I don't
really get survival, to be honest. It seems so redundant, I never had a problem
seeing the enemies on my minimap. And it's not as if you'll need the extra
resistance you get from the last rank...
Basicly, pick whatever you like, the differences are marginal.
This is not a list of ALL the spells in DA:O, just those that I feel are in some
way or another useful for an Arcane Warrior. There are of course different play-
styles other than my own, and so I've tried my best to include them as well, to
the best of my ability. If your favourite spell isn't in this list, feel free to
send me a mail and explain to me what a numbskull I am for not using it! And,
please, tell me WHY it's your favourite spell! I also try to include some
explanation why I don't like some of the spells that might seem good.
The key to playing an Arcane Warrior is sustained spells. Since you'll be using
the heaviest of the heavy armour and weapons, you'll fatigue will be through the
roof, meaning less spells to cast. The best way to counter this is to not use
your mana actively, but rather through the sustained spells. You'll have so many
buffs, so much armour and defense that you'll rarely get hit and take quit small
amounts of damage when you do. Your resistances will be at the top as well - in
short, you're the perfect tank. You're still quite proficient at dealing damage,
and you can pop the occasional spell when the need arise. Think of the Arcane
Warrior as a utility-tank with excellent damage capabilites. Your biggest
problem will be to hold aggro - more on this later.
There have been quite a few mails asking about using the Arcane Warrior as a
"normal" mage, meaning casting more spells and dealing destruction with magic
rather than your sword. Well, sure you CAN, but why would you want to? If you
want a pure spellcaster, just go with a Blood Mage/Spirit Healer, that'll be
MUCH better for those purposes than an Arcane Warrior could ever be. Not using
the Arcane Warrior to the limits of the class' potential seems a bit wasteful.
Keep in mind that starting a fight with all your sustainables activated might
not be the brightest idea, you will want to cast what spells you can BEFORE
activating them (more on this in the Tactics section).
Keep in mind that you can only have a sustained spell on if you have enough mana
to activate it in the first place. This means than you probably won't be able to
have ALL of your sustainables activated all the time. Some you'll have activated
all the time, some varies from fight to fight, and some will be very situational
indeed. Don't be afraid to switch in the middle of a fight!
One thing that an Arcane Warrior has to keep in mind when choosing spells, and
this is quite important, is if the spell in question requires you to sheathe
your weapons to cast it or not. This is one of the things the normal, staff-
wielding mages don't need to worry about, as it doesn't apply to staffs. You, on
the other hand, might have to sheathe your weapons when you want to use certain
spells. This may or may not be a big issue for you, depending on your playstyle.
Spells with a * next to their name CAN NOT be caster with your weapons drawn.
A quick note on Weapon Enhancements: you can only have one activated at a time,
but you can benefit from several if you aren't the only mage in the party.
4.1 Arcane Spells
This is quite a small tree - only four spells.
Arcane Bolt - You'll get this one for free at level one. It's a cheap
spell, mana-wise, and very good for those levels before
you actually get the Arcane Warrior Specialization. This
is one of the spells that DOESN'T require you to sheathe
your weapons to use, which is very nice. You can use it
as a way to pull more enemies to you, while you hack
away at those in front of you.
Arcane Shield - This is going to be one of your bread-and-butter spells,
once you get the AW specialization. More defense = not
being hit so often = good. Relatively cheap upkeep and
quick cast time.
Staff Focus is useless to you, since you wont' be using staffs. Arcane Mastery,
on the other hand, might be useful. +5 Spellpower is +5 Spellpower, but is it
worth the two points needed to get it? No, not in my opinion. However, if you
find yourself without any spells you want when you've got all the other spells
you want at high level, this might be a place to spend them.
4.2 Primal Spells
This is the more obvious damage-tree of the mages' spells. Quite a few Area of
Effect spells (AoE from here on) plus some weapon enhancements and miscellaneous
utility spells makes it a quite well-rounded tree.
Flaming Weapons - This would be the most powerful weapon enhancement in
terms of pure damage. At higher levels you'll see damage
well above 10 for each hit, which isn't something to
sneeze at. You'll probably find yourself having this on
all the time - I know I can't live without it!
Fireball * - This is one of those spells I can't decide on. It's a
big AoE spell with knockdown and good damage, but it'll
require you to sheathe your weapon. One of the things
Arcane Warriors lack is ways of grabbing and keeping
threat on enemies and Fireball is a great way to do just
that. There are, however, better spells for this later
on, especially if you decide to become a Blood Mage. If
you got points to spare, this is a good pick anyday.
Rock Armour - Another bread-and-butter spell: more armour makes you
take less damage when you get hit.
Stone Fist * - Some like to use this spell on frozen targets for the
possibility of a shatter, which seems to work well. One
thing, though, is that you won't have mana to use this
spell consistently, and is thus better used on your
other mages, should you want to.
Frost Weapons - Another weapon enhancement spell. While not doing as
much damage as the fire version, this is still a very
handy spell to have. Quite alot of enemies are either
immune or resistant to fire, so having some frost to
balance it out is a good idea, especially on one of your
companions. Frost Weapons also slows enemies hit, but
not by much. You'll have Miasma, so this is a minor
point, but worth mentioning nevertheless.
Cone of Cold * - Another AoE spell, with the same problems as with the
Fireball spell. Cone of Cold has a lesser area of effect
but in turn freezes your targets, which may in turn
shatter the enemies on potential critical hits. A good
pick, if you have points to spare.
The rest of the spells in this tree is either pure damage, utility or some mix
of them both. You, however, won't have the mana to take advantage of either, so
save them for your companions.
4.3 Creation Spells
This is more of a support-and-utility tree with a good mix of spells. While only
a few are useful for an Arcane Warrior, some of the other spells are certainly
worthwhile to have on one or two of your companions!
Heal - This is the first healing spell in the game, and quite
useful. You won't have enough mana to consistently heal,
but you'll find yourself in moments when you sigh in
relief in taking the spell as a single, well-places heal
saves the life of the party. This is one of the things
the Arcane Warrior excells at: emergency healing and
utility. A must-have. In fact, every mage in your party
should have it!
Haste - This is a tricky one... Haste is one of the better
spells out there in terms of just increasing your auto-
attack damage (even with the attack penality), but it
costs four points to get, three of them more or less
useless and at best very situational spells! However, it
is quite beneficial to let one of your companions use
Haste instead of yourself. Maybe one of your companions
starts with one or two of the prerequisite spells...?
One thing to consider, though, is that Haste stacks up
to two instances, meaning that if you only have two
mages in your group (including you) it's a very good
Glyph of Warding - This is quite an awesome spell for those hard-hitting
bosses, or for when your tank it surrounded by alot of
enemies. While it's radius is quite small, it'll give
you a whooping +30 defense while inside! This means you
will survive the first onslaught of enemies and thin
their numbers enough so that when the spell's duration
is up you won't have any problem with the remaining
Glyph of Repulsion - This is an excellent spell all on it's own, but it can
also synergize with Glyph of Paralysis, the first spell
in the Glyph line. While casting one on top of the other
it'll create a big AoE stun. This can be really good
in keeping all those pesky archers at bay. An even
better tactic is to throw up a Repulsion Glyph (giving
enemies a hard time to move through it), wait for it's
duration to almost end, and THEN throw a Glyph of
Paralysis on top of it. This is a VERY good crowd
already known? Hm...
Spell Wisp - More spellpower is never a bad thing, and this comes
quite cheap as well. I haven't used this much myself,
as the balance of mana and sustainables is quite a hard
to maintain. This'll become much more useful if you
become a Blood Mage as your second specialization.
The rest of the healing spells are good, but not your for, you won't have the
mana to use them. I highly recommend having at least one of your companions have
them all, though, they'll get you through some of the harder fights. I haven't
used the Glyph spells much myself, so I can't really give any advice on them,
other than that you (yet again) won't have the mana to use them. Feel free to
email me if feel you got something to contribute to this!
4.4 Spirit Spells
This is one of the more useful trees, if not only because it's got Crusing
Prison and Force Field in it, but also a bunch of really good utility spells.
Mind Blast * - This is both an excellent "Oh, crap!"-spell and a great
aggro spell. While it won't distract already engaged
enemies all too well, it's a great way to grab that
initial threat. You will need to sheathe your weapons,
though. All mages should have this spell!
Force Field - Wow! This is the second best spell in the game! This
spell will make an impossible fight into a cake-walk.
Since all your mages already has Mind Blast (right? =P),
they might as well get this one as well.
Telekinetic Weapons - The last of the wapon enhancements, this one doesn't
add any "pure" damage, but rather increases it by
increasing your armour penetration. One of your mages
must have this for the many heavily-armoured enemies
you'll find in DA:O.
Crushing Prison - Yup, this is the best spell in the game. It's like Force
Field, except it does damage as well! Your Arcane
Warrior really should have the whole Mind Blast line
just for this, it's that good. Often you'll just start
a fight by throwing Crushing Prison on the most powerful
enemy in sight, Force Field on another, and then hack
away. Another excellent feature of Crushing Prison is
that it'll generate additional threat. You might even
want this on your companion mages as well.
At first glance, Death Syphon might seem useful. Think about it, though. You'll
start fights by using the spells you want, activate all your sustainables, and
your mana pool will barely be a puddle. What use is there to replenish what
little mana you have? You won't be able to cast any spells consistently anyway.
Your mana should be saved for those sink-or-swim moments when you really need
it, and you won't need to replenish it, it'll do that for itself. Besides, the
Fade Shroud (last of the Arcane Warrior spells) gives you enough mana for your
4.5 Entropy Spells
This is a utility-heavy tree, mixed with some potentially very damaging combos.
While not many spells are useful for your Arcane Warrior, some might be quite
the pick for your companions.
Miasma - Another excellent sustained spell. Less attack means
that both you and your party will get hit less and less
defense means that you'll hit your enemies more often!
The possible movement penalities are just the icing on
the cake. It's well worth the high mana cost!
Death Hex * - This spells totally depends on your party configuration.
If you have a lot of people hitting your enemies with
physical attacks, it's a death sentance for whomever you
put it on, but if you've got more mages in your group it
might be a waste. You alone hitting on a monster is not
enough to warrent use of this spell. The prerequisites
aren't horrible, but is more suited for a companion.
Something to think about, at least.
Drain Life * - This is a handy spell to have for those moments when you
really need it, and it's very useful in the beginning of
Death Magic - Another sustained, this one a bit more situational. It's
quite useful when you're surrounded but alot of enemies
hitting away at you as it'll increase your survivability
and reduce the need for healing, but it really needs
quite alot of corpses to be of real use.
Sleep * - Another excellent crowd control spell, as if we needed
any more! There's quite alot of enemies in the game that
it won't affect, however, so it's more situational than
most spells. Synergized very well with Horror.
Horror * - This is only useful on targets that are already affected
by the Sleep spell, but when hit on such a target, it
really does shine with a huge amount of damage. This is
an excellent combo to take out enemy mages with. You
should probably save these for one of your companions,
though, you have other, more important spells to cast.
4.6 Arcane Warrior Spells
You'll max this tree, there's nothing more to it. Grab the next spell in line as
soon as you can, they are too excellent to wait for! As for passive bonuses, the
Arcane Warrior will get +5 to hit and +1 to Dexterity.
Combat Magic - Ok, so except from making the Magic attribute your new
Strength, this spell will increase your attack and
damage and is the thing that allows you to melee. What
Did you choose this specialisation for? Combat Magic.
You might not want to jump straight into armour and
sword as soon as you get this spell, however, as your
attack and threat generation might still be lacking.
Try it out and get a feeling for wether you should wait
or start using it straight away.
Aura of Might - Combat Magic gains more bonuses? Great!
Shimmering Shield - You're now a powerhouse. This should be active at ALL
times. Armour, damage resistance AND all the other
resistances tied together into one, neat spell. What's
not to love?
Fade Shroud - More bonuses for Combat Magic? Yup. The increased mana
regeneration is marginally useful for you and your mana
puddle, but the increased chance to avoid attacks makes
your already nigh-unhittable ass even more solid.
A quick note on the 1.02 patch: Shimmering Shield now deactivates when you've
depleted your mana. This is not a nerf, this is a bugfix: Shimmering Shield is
the only spell that required mana to use and DIDN'T deactivate when you went to
zero mana. The Arcane Warrior is as powerful as ever, you'll just need a bit
different tactics as to when and where to use Shimmering Shield. With the right
equipment you can still have it active more or less all the time.
Well, obviously you'll pick the Arcane Warrior as your first specialization, but
what about the second? There really are only two to pick from, as Shapeshifter
is totally useless. Blood Mage is more offensive and synergizes well with your
mana puddle while Spirit Healer gives you more healing capabilities and general
5.1 Blood Mage
This is, in my opinion, the best specialization for an Arcane Warrior, as it
perfecly offsets all it's drawbacks, namely it's mana. With Blood magic, you
won't have to worry about mana, you can cast any spell you want, as long as you
have the hit points to do it. While this setup certainly is very powerful, it
really does require some careful use and micromanagement. You'll be healed for
less, which can be a problem, but you can fix that by going in and out of Blood
Magic. This actually works, seeing as the cooldown is only 10 seconds. Passive
bonuses are +2 to Constitution and Spellpower.
One thing to note about the higher difficulties is that the AW/BM combo starts
to lose ground to the it's Spirit Healer brothers just because of the sheer
amount of damage that will be served to you on a silver platter. I still think
that Blood Mage is the better specialization in terms of perfectly synergizing
with the Arcane Warrior, but I've found, along with others, that it's
survivability does lack that extra *oompfh* needed for Nightmare difficulty,
unless you REALLY micromanage every single little move and don't use tactics
Blood Magic - This ability alone is reason enough to take the Blood
Mage, as explained above. Careful micromanagement and
planning is the key here.
Blood Sacrifice - This is both a great and horrible ability. You can
never get enough healing, but at what cost? If you take
hit points from one of your companions, won't somebody
have to heal them instead of you? However... This can
be circumvented. You know that rogue specialization,
Ranger, that you never thought anything about because
all the others seemed to much better? Well, a for a
Blood Mage, a Ranger is actually an excellent choice of
companion second specialization! The Ranger can summon
animals to fight for you... Which you can steal health
from without any real penality! This is a very good
synergy for a Blood Mage, I highly recommend it!
Blood Wound - Did I say Crushing Prison was the best spell in the
game? Well, yes, it is. But, this is better! It's
basicly the same spell as and AoE! Watch as an entire
horde of enemies halt in their progress and start to
take damage. Did I mention it generates additional
threat as well? So, those enemies who do survive the
Blood Wound spell will most likely run straight towards
you, which is exactly what you want. THIS is the best
spell in the game!
Blood Control - Take control of a powerful enemy and watch it tear
through it's former allies, priceless. Even if it
resists the spell, it'll still take damage from it. Oh,
and extra threat.
A Blood Mage won't need as much Willpower as other mages, because of his use of
Blood Magic. Keep this in mind when allocating your attributes, just remember
that you still need enough mana to be able to activate your sustainables. As a
Blood Mage you will, however, need quite alot of more Constitution if you don't
want to end up in micromanagement-death.
5.2 Spirit Healer
This is for you that want a less offensive Arcane Warrior, but all the more
survivable. You'll get more healing, and the best healing ability in the game, a
sustainable healing spell! Suits you perfectly... Passive bonuses are +2 to
Magic and minor health regeneration in combat.
Group Heal - This is an excellent spell for those times when you're
in a pinch with several of your party members in need
of a heal. A lifesaver, at times!
Revival - I generally find that if you need to use this spell,
you've already lost the fight, at least on the higher
difficulties. Still, it's a prerequisite.
Lifeward - Another healing spell, but quite situational. It's very
for when you know that you'll be taking heavy damage
very soon, but you'll need to plan it out ahead of
time. You CAN use it for normal healing if all your
other heals are on cooldown, however.
Cleansing Aura - This is the reason the Spirit Healer specialization is
an option to Blood Mage. It's a sustainable that heals.
You'll be a walking health-dispenser, and you'll become
the hardest thing to kill in the world. Keep in mind
that this thing drains mana, and coupled with other
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