The Renegade Control Wizard — Stats, Feats and Powers (oh my!)
An Overview with Subjective Thoughts on Feats, Stats and Powers for the Magical Practitioner
Preface: What’s this about?
I have been getting quite a few PMs about my wizard and how I built him. It is also a question that comes up fairly often on the forum and many players look for ideas how to build their very own wizard. So, let’s put on our robes and the wizard hat and look a little at the class.
I’d like to preface this by saying that what I write and discuss here reflects only my own experience and what does and doesn’t work for me. At least so far! “So far” means, at present, up to and including T2 epic dungeons and a gearscore just shy of 10k. I only include this to give you an idea what I have experience with and what my views are based on. This is also chiefly a PvE build, even though it works in PvP as well. I included PvP relevant comments where appropriate.
This build works for me and many other players, but this doesn’t mean that it will work for you too, or that it is the best approach, or that it represents the pinnacle of theorycrafting. In fact, there is little theorycrafting in here. The game is new and without a test server or a training hall, it is a little tricky to really test out builds.
I do invite readers and other Control Wizards to chip in their input and thoughts! Nothing you will read in this post should be considered gospel.
Okay, now that the robe is on and the wizard hat too, and you are still reading, let’s start!
In other DnD-based video games, picking the right race for your class was fairly important. It is not meaningless in Neverwinter, either, but it is much less crucial. This means that you can really pick any class that appeals to you, and you will be fine! There are some races that are better on the paper (but the actual impact on your performance is not significant), so let's look at them.
Tiefling: In my opinion, this is the best race for a wizard (see note below). Even without the awesome tail, it comes with +2 to Charisma (CHA) and +2 to Intelligence (INT). You could trade the latter for +2 CON, but -- don't be crazy! INT is the main stat for Control Wizards as it increases your damage and the recharge rate of your spells.
The two secondary stats are CHA and WIS, and for a Renegade Control Wizard, CHA is extremely sexy. It's almost sexier than INT (and there are people who will say you should focus even more on it than I suggest), because it gives you 1% for every point in CHA over 10. As a Renegade Wizard you like crits. You would, in fact, trade your wizard hat for an extra bag of crits! You also get a racial that increases your damage by 5% if a mob's health is below 50%, so, 2.5% extra damage. You do a LOT of damage all over the place, so why not do some more?
Human: Most common race in DnD's world, and also the most common race in the game! Humans are, plainly put, always good and never wrong. You don't get any special racials and you don't have a tail, but you do get three extra feats (23 instead of 20) and you can put +2 in an attribute of your choice. Whether the three extra feats make up for both the +2 CHA and the Tiefling's racial is something that isn't entirely decided yet, but personally, I don't necessarily believe so. My CW is human, but in retrospect I think I should have chosen the Tiefling. The extra +2 go to INT.
An important note (May, 11th): There is currently a bug with the Tiefling's Bloodhunt racial and the Tempest Magic feat (more damage when the target is below 30%). These don't work together. While this bug is around, the humans are the better choice. You need to decide if you want what is arguably "best" now, or if you count on the bug getting fixed soon, at which point the Tiefling marginally takes the lead. It's up to you. Alternatively, you can choose a different feat instead of Tempest Magic, if you are a Tiefling, see the Feats section for details.
Other solid choices: Drow for the +2 CHA and the constantly triggering Darkfire. Wood Elf for the +2 INT and the 1% critical chance, and the racial's to have resist against slowing effects is really neat for PvP. All other races offer little to our wizzy needs, but as I mentioned above, it really is not as important as it may seem. If you want to be a Halfing mage, a Half Orc with a brain and spells, please go for it! It's a game! Have fun!
When you create your character, you roll virtual dice for your stats. It's a bit of an illusion, though, because there are only 12 distinctively different sets of results that you can get (we call them "arrays"), so you will never have to re-roll more than a few times to get what you want. You can see the arrays here.
The Control Wizard's main stats are INT, CHA and WIS. For a Renegade Control Wizard, we care about damage and we dig critical hit chance, so INT and CHA will be our focus. Very important is that CHA also increases your Combat Advantage damage, 1% per point, and not only will you nearly always have Combat Advantage in groups, the Renegade feats synergize with it. I'll cover this later. Wisdom (WIS) is not useless, far from it. It increases the duration of your crowd control effects, increases the rate at which you gain Action Points (which means more dailies more often), and recharges your spells faster. That is neat!
So, then, which starting attributes should you choose? I'll propose two alternatives and you will have to choose. "OH NO I HATEZS CHOICES!". I know, sorry! But you are a wizard, you have high INT, put it to good use!
18/13/13 (INT, CHA, WIS) is an obvious choice, and a solid one. As a Tiefling you would start with 20/15/13 and then use your level up attribute points for either CHA and WIS, or INT and CHA. For the minor stats, put the 8 into STR or DEX, depending on wether you want 1% AoE damage resist or 1% DOT damage resist at level 60. I put the 8 in STR. And this is the array I chose for my wizard.
16/16/12 (INT, CHA, WIS) is what I would probably go with now if I remade the character. A Tiefling would start with 18/18/12, a Human with 18/16/12, and level-up points would again go to CHA/WIS or CHA/INT. This is still pretty balanced and if you decide you want to respect your wizard, you are fairly flexible (you cannot change the starting attributes when you respec, only the points you spent after you created your wizard). I believe this is the overall better choice, especially if you are a Tiefling, and particularly for a Renegade build. If you are unsure if Renegade is what you want and you want to play it extremely safe, then pick the first option, because INT will work no matter what.
Food for thought: It is a choice you have to make whether you put the level up attribute points that you get at levels 10, 20, 40 and 50 into INT/CHA (more damage) or WIS/CHA (more balanced, better crowd control, increased AP gain). Currently, I favor INT/CHA.
Note that if you were to want to focus more on CC, things might be different and you would want more WIS. But this is not what this guide is about, so I focus on what I feel works well for a Renegade wizard. As mentioned before, don't get too OCD over the starting stats. It's really not going to gimp your character. Promise!
Between level 10 and 30 you receive a total of 20 Feats. If you are a Human, you are featyful and get 23! Below is an image that shows how I spent my points at level 60 (ignore the Paragon points on the right side -- we'll get to those soon!):
You may have to make scary choices based on your preferences. Read on!
May 24 note: This is the version 2.0 of my build. After further testing and in light of the current state of the CW feats (not all are presently working as advertised), I have shuffled around some points. Notably, I moved the points from Toughness to Controlling Action, and switched the points from the AoE feats (which currently and regrettably do not work with all AoE spells, see the comments on Wizard's Wrath for details on this) to Learned Spellcaster (which was recently fixed) and Prestidigitation. This yields an overall DPS increase. If you are not a Human, you can either go 2/5 Learned Spellcaster and 3/3 Prestidigitation, or only 5/5 Learned Spellcaster. I recommend the former.
There is an optional approach that I want to highlight: I have opted for Prestidigitation in this build because it makes everyone in your group a little better. It is a support feat and makes your wizard a team player. If you are however mostly concerned with your own damage potential, regardless of the team performance, you would probably want to get Focused Wizardry instead of Prestidigitation. Focused Wizardry does not affect half the AoE spells you use (AS, CoI), but it is a 9% damage increase for Chill Strike and Steal Time.
The feats were chosen with damage, critical hits (and their effects) and general usefulness in mind. Let's quickly look them over, starting with the top row (green are feats you put points into, red ones are feats I did not take):
Controlling Action (4/5)
More Action Points when damaging controlled targets. In the original build I undervalued this feat and went focused instead more on the AoE feats and Toughness. While I believe Toughness to be a better choice if you PvP a lot and during leveling, from a PvE end game perspective this feat is superior.
Fight On (5/5)
Shorter cooldowns on your Encounter skills means more damage means happy wizard!
Blighting Power (0/5)
Pretty meh, we skip this, since we are not building a frost/cold-based wizard. We build a critically flashy wizard! Even for a cold-based wizard, this feat would still be lacking.
Learned Spellcaster (5/5 for humans, 5/5 or 2/5 for others)
In the original build I had skipped this feat because it did not work correctly. However, a recent patch fixed it and you are now receiving the correct damage bonus. This makes it an attractive talent. Humans can and should max it, others need to decide whether they want 5/5 or 2/5 here.
Weapon Mastery (3/3)
Moar Critz! It's what you want. You love crits and you would fondle them if they were fondable. Get this! I should mention that there are diminishing returns for stats, so there is a point after which Moar Critz may not necessarily be wanted. But let's assume that for now this talent is excellent. I'll be adding details on diminishing returns Real Soon Now.
You don't care about less threat at this point in time, the Cleric will hog it all anyway! Note added on May 9: The recent patch also seems to have fixed some of the Cleric's threat issues and in T2 boss fights (not before) your AoE attracts the immense number of adds. I still do not believe this talent is worthwhile. Note added on May 24: Definitely worthless at present, and Clerics still get all the aggro.
Lightning Teleport (0/5)
Stamina gain when you kill something. Not relevant in PvE, and I think too little to matter in PvP.
Prestidigitation (3/3 for humans, 3/3 or 0/3 for others or if you focus on personal DPS)
It's a good feat as it makes everyone in your group a little better, including yourself. This also stacks if there are multiple wizards with this feat in your group. Non-humans can either get 3/3 here and 2/5 Learned Spellcaster, or skip it in favor of 5/5 Learned Spellcaster. My recommendation for non-humans is 2/5 Learned Spellcaster and 3/3 Prestidigitation. Humans can get both. NOTE: This is a feat for team players who want to also support the group. If you are mostly concerned about personal damage and want to maximize your own DPS only, putting three points into Focused Wizardry is likely to give you a slight edge. See the commentson Focused Wizardry for more on this.
This is a good feat for PvP and for leveling, and I had it originally in my build, but I believe Controlling Action to be the superior choice in the larger picture.
Wizard's Wrath (0/3)
This looks good on the paper, however, currently there are several spells that are not affected by it: Arcane Singularity, Conduit of Ice, Icy Terrain, and Sudden Storm. They also do not benefit from Evocation. CoI and AS are two of the AoE spells that I recommend for this build. Steal Time and Chill Strike are affected. I had this in my build originally, but dropped it in the revision for this reason. Please also see the comments on the Focused Wizardry feat below.
Arcane Enhancement (3/3)
Increase your arcane damage and thus makes your Magic Missile longer and bigger and more powerful! MM is the main source of your damage, and this buffs it.
Focused Wizardry (0/3) or (3/3)
Just like Wizard's Wrath, this feat promises more than it currently offers. Please scroll briefly up to read the comments on Wizard's Wrath. Now, there is one point to consider: Steal Time and Chill Strike are affected by this feat. If you do not worry about the group performance and want to chiefly maximize your own damage, regardless of the overall efficiency of the group, Focused Wizardry is an alternative to Prestidigitation, especially for humans. The decision you need to make is whether you want to support your group a little more (then go with Prestidigitation) or if you want to increase your own damage a little more (then go with Focused Wizardry).
At level 30 you get to choose your path. At this time, you get the choice between becoming a Spellstorm Mage, a Spellstorm Mage, or a Spellstorm Mage. My suggestion is that you go for Spellstorm Mage. Instead of normal feat points, you will now get Paragon Feats. You'll get 30 of those. Refer to the screenshot above to see where I put mine. Start with the Renegade points and work your way up.
Let's look at the Renegade ones first:
Critical Power (0/5)
APs for crits. This is good, but we can do better with our points. AP generation is the one weak point of this build, but overall I believe that your sustained total damage will nevertheless trump that of Thaumaturge wizards. Note here that this feat has a 10 seconds cooldown. If it didn't, it would be a winner, but with the cooldown it is a less attractive choice.
Nightmare Wizardry (5/5)
You don't need a lockbox key for this. You gain Combat Advantage when you crit, and CHA, which we love, boosts your Combat Advantage damage. Now you can see how the synergies fall into place!
Phantasmal Destruction (5/5)
Higher critical damage when you already do more damage when you have Combat Advantage? Yes, you want this!
Masterful Arcane Theft (5/5)
More damage for Steal Time and Ray of Enfeeblement, both of which you will be using.
Reaper's Touch (5/5)
A ton more damage for Magic Missile when you are with 20ft of an enemy. Lovely in PvE and PvP. I need to note that monsters in T2 epic dungeons and beyond hit hard, but you will have developed a good feel for the range of Steal Time and the cast time. You should usually get your cast off before anything hits you. Practice teleporting backwards without turning. This is one of the more optional feat choices, but I consider it a better DPS increase than the alternatives.
Unrestrained Chaos (0/5)
I don't use Maelstrom of Chaos and found it disappointing, so not buffing it.
Energy Recovery (0/5)
You'll have Ray of Frost on your RMB, and not even use it all that often. Skip!
Chilling Advantage (0/5)
We are not focusing on cold spells enough for this to be relevant.
Tempest Magic (5/5)
More damage when the target is below 30%. Awesome, we want that! (When we have the Renegade feats).Note added on May 24: This feat currently does not work with the Tiefling's racial, which temporarily make humans the superior choice for the race. In the menatime, I would recommend that Tieflings instead put the 5 points into Snap Freeze.
Malevolent Surge (5/5)
You are an AoE damage dealer, you kill trash all the time, so why not do more damage as a reward? There has been a discussion about whether this feat is really worth it. I believe it is. In most dungeon runs, my wizard yields the highest number of kills, and your job is often to kill weaker enemies, e.g. the archers at the T2 Pirate King end boss. You will very frequently get a damage boost from this feat.
That's it, we are out of points!
We Gots Powers!
So, young Padawan, now that we have covered the feats and the stats, or the stats and the feats, if you like thinking in chronological order, let's now look at the spells and passives, collectively called Powers!
I need to say something here first, however. You can have many more spells at their max rank than you will have in your active spell slots. Unlike in other games, you will need to change your setup of spells depending on what you do and where you are. Preference here matters as well. How to spend Power Points is a major source of fretting and worrying about making a mistake and then having to get a Respec Token. While many of us are perfectionists, there really is a lot of wiggle room here when it comes to Powers. A few points you may have preferred to put elsewhere will not break the game for you and will not completely gimp you.
I also do not believe that there is One True Way of spending Power Points, at least not for now. Little theorycrafting work has been done, spells are subject to balancing patches, and everyone is still busy learning and experimenting. Plus, people have different playing styles, different preferences. The following discussion of spells/powers is from the perspective of a Renegade Control Wizard. Other types may value spells differently (almost certainly). Plus, this is from my personal experience. I may change my mind on some of those spells as I dive more deeply into the Epic Dungeons and get further owned by others in PvP. So, again, there is no gospel here, just opinions -- and you are very welcome to contribute your own!
The purpose is to provide guidance and ideas, not to give you a build that you just have to follow blindly. Don't do this. This may not be the best, and it may not be the best for YOU.
Any more disclaimers and this will turn into a legal document. So, nibble on your wand (well, orb, we have no wands here!), we'll dive in!
At Will Powers:
Magic Missile: Max this. It is your bread and butter spell and the major source of your damage. You will always have this on your left mouse button.
Ray of Frost: It is not anywhere as good as Magic Missile, but it is decent enough and you will likely always have this on your RMB. It gives you another way of crowd controlling targets, even if it takes a bit of time, and with its help you can keep a PvE target disabled for an entire fight. It is not flashy, but nevertheless solid. There's nothing that strikes me as a better RMB At Will power. You can safely max this, but don't have to.
Chilling Cloud: I really find it underwhelming. It may have its uses, if you build a different type of wizard, but I just found it unimpressive whenever I played with it. I didn't put points here when I respecced most recently. RoF is a superior choice.
Storm Pillar: Some people like it, and I tried hard to like it too, but I didn't find it useful. I'm not a fan of "hold the button and charge it up" type of abilities because channeling beams keeps me rooted long enough already, and I don't need another ability that requires it. I put no points here.
You will swap these in and out depending on what you do, which is why they are called Encounter powers!
Chill Strike: I like this spell quite a bit and I slot it for Spell Mastery when I do PvE (both solo and group) and Foundry Quests. It does a LOT of damage and also freezes one target. I maxed this with three points. This is pretty much always on my bar.
Conduit of Ice: I like it for both group and solo PvE. I used it for a long while in PvP too (has an interesting psychological effect on people!). I maxed it. Of my bread and butter spells, this is the one that I am the most likely to replace. Note added on May 9: I am currently considering to swap this out for SoEA.
Entangling Force: This is THE number one crowd control spell we have, and it's great both in PvE and PvP. It's almost a bit like being a Sith! I maxed this, and so should you.
Repel: This is a knockback. I maxed this, but I really only use it in PvP, and then not always. It is definitely a "matter of preference" kind of spell, so whether you invest into it is up to you. Don't use it in dungeons, though, it's really annoying for everyone and hurts your own dps, too. Use Steal of Time in situations where you feel the urge to cast Repel.
Shield: Absorbs damage and you can "explode" it and knockback enemies around you. It also has a nice BLING sound when it recharges! I maxed this and used it extensively in the level 40-55 range when I felt very squishy. I use it in PvP, obviously, and frequently slot it into Arcane Mastery (however, Enfeebling Ray may be better in this slot, for PvP). It's not needed in group PvE. I did max it and find it essential to have in the arsenal.
Icy Terrain: I maxed this and toyed around with it, and I feel it has potential at least in solo PvE and Foundry Quests. It synergizes (playstyle-wise) well with Steal Time. I don't use it often and this needs more testing, but I maxed it. Points have to be put somewhere after all.
Sudden Storm: This is a popular spell that many people swear by. I find it a bit cumbersome to use, but it does offer high damage and is worth having. I maxed it, even though I rarely pull it out. I see many wizards using it, so it can't be terrible. You may want to consider using this instead of Conduit of Ice.
Ray of Enfeeblement: Not being a fan of beam spells, I was reluctant here, but the damage and the debuffing make this a premium choice for all aspects of the game, including PvP and bosses. You may not need it while you level, but you will want to have access to it. I maxed it out and have had T2 boss encounters where I swapped it in for the debuffing. You will do less damage, but it makes boss fights easier.
Icy Rays: More freezy stuff. I have no experience with this spell and have never used it. It may be great and I am in the dark, in which case someone will post and point out that I'm totally missing one of the best spells! I put zero points in it.
Steal Time: Now, THIS is an amazing spell! Everything about it is awesome. Yes, you have to be close to targets to use it (okay, that is not awesome!), but especially when you level, mobs will be close to you anyway! In group PvE, you can teleport in, cast, teleport out. Learn to teleport backwards without turning. Yes, it has a short cast time, but it is very good. When you get it at level 45, it will really change your game (I found the levels right before 45 a bit slow). After Arcane Singularity, this is my second favorite spell in the game. I constantly use it in dungeons, all the time.
Shard of the Endless Avalanche: I haven't played with it very much, but what I saw I found rather disappointing. Note added on May 9: There is a good chance that I underestimate this spell. Feedback and streams from other wizards implies that this spell is very much worth it. Since you have spare points anyway, this is a good place to put them.
Ice Storm: This is the first Daily Power you get, and you get it automatically. I'm torn on this spell. I kept it at 1 point, but used it in my secondary slot when I leveled. It's good for the knockback (don't use it in dungeons, it is a dps loss for you as it scatters monsters all over the place) and the damage is very solid, as well. It is safe to max, but it is not necessarily what you will always want to use. It's certainly a candidate for 3 points.
Arcane Singularity: Awesome in every way, PvE and PvP. In PvE, it bunches up monsters so you can do even more AoE, it does damage, it lowers the pressure on the tank (the cleric, really!), and it looks way cool, too! This daily has never left my "1" slot ever since I got it, and this absolutely deserves to get maxed out. A strategy I use is to use AS on groups, teleport close, and start casting Steal Time so that it finishes right when the mobs drop down. Then I follow up with a tabbed Chill Strike.
Oppressive Force: As mind-bogglingly good Arcane Singularity is, as disappointing I found Oppressive Force. I haven't found a good use for it where other Daily Powers don't perform better. Perhaps you will!
Ice Knife: While I feel that during leveling Ice Storm is a better choice, once you start doing epic dungeons, Ice Knife is an excellent pick for bosses and elite mobs. It is my secondary daily next to Arcane Singularity.
Maelstrom of Chaos: A level 50 Daily Power that at first left me rather unimpressed. I'm not regularly using but, but other folks swear by it. Points here are well spent.
Class Features (passives)
Orb of Imposition: The first passive you get, and it increases the duration of your CC. I maxed this and swap it in when I want better crowd control. It's situational for my playstyle, but may become more essential with harder content.
Arcane Presence: Not terrible, but for our build not really that useful. I skipped this.
Chilling Presence: Same as above.
Evocation: 15% more AoE damage is massive. This is one of my top-three passives for my Control Wizard. Definite candidate for 3 points.
Storm Fury: Very meh, and not really worth the slot, in my opinion. If I am below 50%, I blink, have a CC ready, drink a potition or scream "MOMMY!".
Storm Spell: 10% of your attacks will do extra shock damage. This is an excellent dps boost and depending where I am, I use either Evocation or this one.
Eye of the Storm: This is a must have! You get it late, but when you do get it, it should never leave your bar. It procs frequently (5% is more than it seems) and 8 seconds (with 3 points) of nonstop critical hits with all spells is really, really good. This is a core part of the Renegade Control Wizard. Don't crawl a dungeon without this.
You will notice that even if you max every power/spell that I maxed, you will have spare points. Around six or eight. How you spend those is up to you to decide. You can also save them if you like and decide later.
For dungeons and group PvE, the Cat is by far the best companion. It gives you +255 Critical Chance and +225 Recovery at rank 25, but this is not what makes it so fantastic. You can give it a ring, a necklace and a belt, and the stats on these items are added to yours. That ring with +300 Power that you give the Cat? That is +300 Power for you. It's basically like wearing three rings, two necklaces and two belts! (Not all stats transfer, +HP for example does not.) Stats from runes (two offensive, one defense) also transfer directly to you. If you use an Eldritch runestone in the defensive slot ("Owner gains x% of the pet's stats"), the built-in bonuses to Critical Chance and Recovery that the Cat gives you are appropriately increased. This does notaffect the bonuses from the ring/necklace/belt that you give to the Cat.
This is the best 960k AD that you will spend on your Control Wizard. If you get it early, leveling it won't be such a pain. It is a non-combat companion and cannot be killed. (Cryptic likes cats, unlike other companies -- remember what always happened to Mr. Bigglesworth in that other game?)
While leveling, I used the Cleric. She doesn't last very long at higher levels, but her heals are percentage-based, so she is still useful. I still used her at level 60 for doing Foundry Quests. Once my gear improved and I was able to nuke monsters more quickly, I switched to using the Phoera for its extra AoE damage (this would also be my second choice for dungeons, if you are not ready to buy the Cat yet). The nice thing about the Phoera when soloing is that it draws "aggro" and manages to off-tank monsters for a bit. It's not a tank, but it allows you to free-cast for a bit. It's fairly affordable in the AH at the time of writing (below 300k AD). I also like my wolf, but that is just because I had him since the very early levels.
Gear sets at level 60
FAQs and thoughts on stats and gear will eventually be put here, as well as general gameplay tips and suggestions. Please do read the comments from other players as there may be a lot of very useful information, especially alternative perspectives.
Update on May 9:
I used the maintenance to do dishes, and update part one and two a little. I added some notes concerning bugs and quirks, and a few additional notes concerning T2 epic dungeons in the feats and spell section. I also included alternative perspectives and opinions that came up in the comments to the guide, just to offer the reader a wider spectrum of views.
I have been asked (a lot) for a screenshot of my Powers. I have not included this because I want you to think about the spells that you put points into. If I post a screenshot, people will blindly copy the build without reading the commentary, and while that is not bad, I think if you want to be a competent Control Wizard, it is helpful to know why you choose a spell. I may still add one later. Sorry for being annoying like that.
Update on May 24:
I have revised the feat choices based on the insights gained by further testing and the collective knowledge of the CW community. With several of our feats not working as advertised, and Learned Spellcaster being fixed, an update of the build has become necessary. The old version is still perfectly fine and works in all areas of the game (perhaps even better for leveling), but version 2.0 is optimized for the current state of the game and the content. Do not feel required to respec, though. You don't take back your old car as soon as a slightly revised model is released. But if you have 600 Zen or the AD (about 200k), consider shuffling around some of your Feat points as outlined in the Feats section. I also included and updated various other information, especially for Tieflings who may temporarily wish to get Snap Freeze instead of Tempest Magic.