Advanced Wizard101

hypercube

Well, it’s back to the Spiral of Wizard101 for more advanced topics. I’ve been away too long fretting and knitting this website and blog together and I need to get back to the game that now has 20 million players! Can you believe that the number of wizards in the Spiral has actually DOUBLED in the last year or so? Amazing.          Is World of Warcraft anywhere near that many yet? Last I heard they were at 12 million or so.

In my earlier posts I covered basic teaming and gaming concepts and terms and schools and some notes about basic and class-specific quests.

Now it’s time to dig deeper. Your wizard could do a lot of gaming by the seat of your pants in the lower levels, but now that you are rising through the ranks, you are going to face tougher bosses and more complex battles. Time to get more game, boys and girls. First I want to talk about a little bit about pets and minions and gear that give you a little extra edge in your gaming, and then I want to share a little of what I’ve learned about Spell deck building and customization. At first, I didn’t understand how spell decks work in Wizard101 . After a while I realized that what i didn’t know about them was holding me back, slowing my levelling down, so I took a closer look. You experienced Wizard101 gamers might have picked up on this quicker than me, but I am sure that the up-and-coming wizards might appreciate a heads up on all of it. I’ll save you a lot of time. It’s what I’m here for.

petsPETS

Early on in Wizard city you get a quest from Ambrose to take a package to the Pet Emporium NPCs; it turns out to be a Piggle, a flying pig, and they let you keep it. Some people find Piggles cute, and it’s certainly nice that you get a free pet right off the bat, but you will find there are better and not-so-better pets, so enjoy your Piggle for the novelty of it, but keep in mind that there are far better (if not cuter) pets you should look into because they WILL help you battle better.

The first thing you need to know about pets is that while most of them can help you fight better, (each in their own way) most of them will have to level up a lot to be useful. Just as your wizard will level up from Novice to Grandmaster, so your pets will level up from Egg to Ancient. The older they get the stronger, more agile , etc. they get — and they eventually augment your defense, damage-dealing, accuracy, etc. But it takes a while.

You level your pet at the Pet Pavilion. There are several mini-games available for this; I always use the Dance Game because it is essentially a Simon. Do you remember Simon? It was a flying-saucer shaped electronic game with four big buttons. The name came from the ancient game of Simon Says; powered by a couple of batteries, the game wouild challenge you with an increasingly long and complicated random sequence of buttons. To aid the process of learning it, the four buttons were different colors, and the game would light them up and play a different musical tone for each button. Simon says: “do-re-mi-re”. You pressed the buttons to match the sequence; if you tok too long or hit a wrong button (”do-re-do….DOH! ) , raspberry buzz and you lose. If you got it just right, Simon would respond by playing a random sequence that was one note longer than the last one, as you passed it ot the next victim. Simon was kind of a fad of the 70s.

The Dance Game is practically to the original Simon as fas as the sequences you have to match. Wizard101 throws you a curve by trying to distract you into watching your pet execute different moves for the different tones. Take my advice if you play this game: if you want to level your pet faster, ignore the pet and watch the buttons as they light up to the musical tones. This game is a natural for me because it uses the inverted-T cluster of 4 arrow buttons on the keyboard….which I use all the time with my right hand to move my toon around, since my left hand is controlling the mouse.

What I have found is that this game is especially good for me because I am a musician: I don’t worry about which button, but which note they want from me. Once my fingers learned which button was which note, I sit and listen for the “do-do-re-do” or whatever, and then let my fingers do the walking to play the same sequence of notes. My problem with Simon back in the 70s was that the big colored buttons were too far apart; in Wizard101’s Dance game you use the arrow keys on your keyboard, which are very close together, so you hand hardly has to move. It’s like playing a tune with adjacent keys on a piano. No problemo. The strange thing is, I find that if I go too slow I make mistakes but if I let my fingers go ahead and complete the sequence a little faster, I usually manage fairly well. “He who hesitates is lost.” Okay, maybe that tip won’t help eveyone, but those of you who play a musical instrument it will. Don’t think, dooooo doooo reeee dooo. Think instead: dodoredo. Your brain can handle incredible amounts of processing; it doesn’t have to plod.

The only thing I have to worry about is selecting the right locale of the dance game, which controls which attributes you are buffing. If you have a pet that can eventually buff up your accuracy, you need to select the part of the dance game that will increase your pet’s agility, and so on. The diversity of pets injects a little complexity at this point, because different pets respond differently to the same training. Some pets will just never get very strong, but can grow to be quite intelligent; others might be the reverse, strong but not as bright. The trick is to figure out which variations of the mini-game will best nurture the development of your kind of pet.

Is it just me, or is there some very subtle but important social education going on here? We live in a society comprised of diversity: while every citizen deserves the same consideration and support, the paradox is that the mode or methodology of support must necessarily vary to accommodate the unique needs of each individual.  That’s heavy. Applying different methods to different beings yields (in some way) the same level of nurturing.  If you do it right.

If the Dance Game is not your thing, there is a pet training mini-game where you fire them out of a cannon and try to hit a target using your pet as a projectile. While I admit the first few times I tried it with a piggle it was quite amusing (watching his helpless squealing squirming body flying off into the distance), after a time I felt it seemed kind of cruel to do that to a non-flying life form, even a virtual one. Should I feel guilty that it looks so funny? It’s the mirror-neurons all over again, I suspect (see my post Seeing Is Believing); maybe if the pet was so nonrecognizeable that none of its movements could be mapped onto my sensorium, I would feel no empathy, hence no guilt. However, the source of my discomfort is irrelevant; since I am far better at the Dance Game there is no real need to spread my learning over all of the training games. I therefore suggest to you, that you do the same: concentrate on one of the training mini-games, at least at first, so that you get good at it quickly and can therefore level up your pet quicker.

Also, pets are associated with different schools of magic, so try not to get the wrong kind or you will spend a lot of time and energy developing abilities that will not help you.

Snacks.

After each training session, after it says your pet improved slightly or improved greatly or whatever, you have the chance to get additional “pet xp” by giving your pet a snack. it will either eat the snack or enjoy the snack; if it likes that kind of snack it will get more progress than if it merely eats the snack as ordered. Here again we see complexity rear its head, and once again we see the subtle teaching of “adjust methodology for student”. Snacks come in a variety of types, and some give more strength, some more intelligence, etc. Once again they are giving you not merely a way to grow your pet up, but teaching the person playing that one-size-doesn’t-fit-all.

specialSpecial Pets

There are at least two ways in which the Wizard101 special pets are better than ordinary pets. The first is, naturally, that they are stronger breeds and can develop more strength, agility, or intelligence than the simple Piggle or Cyclops or Dragon. I prefer to concentrate, however, upon the second way in which they outclass the simpler pets: some of them give you spell cards, just as certain items and pieces of gear do. This is like having extra cards in your spell deck when you walk into a fight. And the interesting thing about these card-carrying pets is that some of them you can get as drops from defeating a boss. Some you can only get by defeating a boss. And of course higher rank bosses drop better pets. Some people might get lucky and get one by accident, but those who know which bosses to go to can just go defeat the boss over and over again and eventually (the drop rates are low percentages) they can get a pet that most other players will not have. I guess I turned my usual obsessiveness upon this, because when I learned about it I just forgot about questing or levelling and just got mean with the right bosses until I got the pets I wanted. Walking around with one of these special pets is like bling, I guess: prestige of accomplishment. (Is this another of Wizard101’s social messages? Only those who work at it get degrees or certifications or licenses to practice law or medicine.) In any event, I have gotten the ones I wanted and I plan to get others as I move into the higher regions. 

Oh, by the way I forgot to mention another aspect of these harder-to-get special pets: they get you noticed, since few have them. If your son or daughter wants to make friends quickly, help them get one of these pets. Me, I tend to solo myself. But wherever I go with a Midnight Sprite buzzing along next to me, I get a lot of “I lke your pet” menu chat directed at me.  If you are a chat-enabled elder and you are single, it’s almost as good as taking a dog to the beach. Something about theese little buzzing sprites appeals to the inner child in people. Just remember that you might be talking to a youngster: KingsIsle is very serious about banning people reported for foul language and so on. Part of this games’s appeal to parents rests on its safeness for kids. Be nice.

 

special 

As far as I know you can buy a Piggle or a Dragon if you want to, but you cannot buy a Dark Sprite (looks exactly like the evil fairies you fight at the very beginning of Wizard101, sort of a fairy with black hair and crimson wings in a fetching purple outfit.) You cannot buy a Dark Sprite — but you can get one if you beat Bastilla Gravewynd enough times. She’s in Firecat Alley. A quest chain takes you to her, and remember: once you reach the end of the quest chain and unlock the boss fight, you can fight that boss any time you want as many times as you want. It’s just a matter of time and percentages and you can get the Dark Sprite.

However, there is a better version: the Midnight Sprite, which is dropped sometimes by Lord Nightshade, a tougher boss than Bastilla. The Midnight Sprite looks exactly the same as the Dark Sprite, except the Midnight Sprite gives you a spell card whenever you have her equipped (flying next to you) and you go into a battle. And here is the cute part. Guess which spell card she gives you? Dark Sprite! If that spell card comes up in your hand (more on that later) then it’s like one of your former enemies has changed sides and is attacking your enemy! (The enemy of my enemy is my friend.) If  you look at the pic above carefully (opens into a separate window) you will also see the Midnight Sprite, while she is equipped and following me around ALSO increases my Death spell accuracy by 2%. Yes, that’s right, you heard correctly. She gives an attack card and also decreases the chance that any of my Death spells will fizzle.  That effect stacks on top of any other gear you might have increasing your Death accuracy. And that’s important in this game, because it’s not like you can partially hit — it’s hit or fizzle. Fizzle gets you nowhere. Another reason I like this cute little number: Tinkerbell with an attitude.

I must admit that I am not averse to buying pets to save time. That way you can get a pet that is dropped in a higher region than your current region. I did buy an Ianthine Spectre instead of waiting until I could fight Gurtok Demon. But why? you might ask. Why did I spend real money to get virtual money (crowns) to buy him early, instead of waiting until I reached that region? I’ll tell you why: the Ianthine Spectre gives me a Summon Death Minion card. Since my main wizard is from Fire School , it would be fairly hard for him to get that spell normally. But he got it. Now he has cards to summon either a Fire Minion or a Death Minion. I think Summon Death Minion is a pretty cool spell card, because it uses X power pips. The X means you can use it with any number of power pips; the more you have when you cast it, the stronger death minion that appears. 1 pip cast gives you ghost; 2 pips give you a Charmed Sprite (looks like a Dark Sprite), 3 pips gets you a Skeletal Pirate, and so on. What this means is you dont have to wait if you really need a minion and this card comes up oin your hand. Even 1 pip, which you get every round in the battles, is enough to cast this spell and get at least a ghost minion to hellp you fight the battle.

Personally, I think it is uber-cool to get into a battle and have one of these evil fairies take up one of the sigils next to me and take turns walloping the enemy with me. Okay, maybe it’s because I have a Y chromosome and I have a thing for cute females in miniskirts (remember I grew up in the 60s) — even ones that fly around like bumblebees. I like flying pets. They are constantly in motion (unlike pets that just heel you and slouch next to you when you are standing somewhere), so they are more visually interesting to me.

There are also pieces of gear (clothing or weapons) that give you spell cards. Once again I must admit I picked up some of these when I could spare a little coin for crowns. I have the Birdcaller set (gives Sunbird, Icebird and Storm bird attack spells) and the Puppetmaster set (gives you summon spells for Ice minion, Fire minion, etc). As we shall see eventually, it is often wise to reconfigure your wizard for the school of enemies they are likely to face in each region. So you might want to change into appropriate attire when necessary. More on that soon.

And this brings me now to the subject of Minions, and how to use them.

Minions are overkill in the beginning part of the game, in which you have parity with your enemies: go into the circle of combat alone, and one baddie will step into it to fight you. If two people step into sigils in the circle, then two enemies will step into fight with you. In this region, the number of baddies always begins at the same number as the wizards. With a one-on-one or a two-on-two situation, you don’t really need a minion; it’s not that hard to beat a single low-level enemy by yourself.  However, even in the lowest levels, bosses have minions and can therefore outnumber you . In those cases having your own minion can be helpful to level the playing field.

However, in the higher levels (Colossus Avenue and up) you will always be outnumbered in fights unless (a) you use a summon minion or (b) you go in to battle with a full team of 4 wizards. Since there are only 4 positions on the good and bad sides of the combat circle, there is no way the enemies casn have more than 4 spots occupied to outnumber you if you have 4 wizards on your team.

To Minion or Not to Minion

There are a few situations in which rather than summon a minion you should do something else. If you are very low in health and have a choice of summoning a minion or healing yourself, you should probably go for the heal to make sure you arent pwned in the next round, before a minion would do you any good. For me, there is another situation that suggests it: when I have enough power pips and the cards to summon a minion OR to cast Meteor Strike. Since I am a Fire Wizard, I have Meteor Strike which is hard to resist when I am free to cast it. It strikes ALL of the enemies, one at a time, rather than just one of them. After all, I can always summon the minion later in the battle if I need too, but getting all of the opposing enemies damaged early in the fight which Meteor Strike will do.

As I mentioned before, minions are great for soloing but considered a little rude in some situations like fighting the Kraken where deploying a summon minion spell means you are using two of the wizard positions in the circle of combat so that someone else might not get to participate. Of course, you can always switch servers and see if there are fewer people waiting to fight the Kraken on a different server.

What if you have a choice of minions?  Which do you use?

In this situation (which should be rare unless you buy special gear or pets or follow my suggestion and win or buy a special drop pet that gives a summon minion spell like the Ianthine Spectre), you will have to make a difficult decision. Take for example, my dilemma I go into a battle with my spectre and the Summon Death Minion and Summon Fire Minion cards come up in my hand. On the one hand, my fire minion will sometimes heal me, which comes in handy, and he deals damage over time with his Fire Elf and Link spells. On the other hand, while my death minions do not seem to ever heal me (which makes sense when you think about it), thye make up for it with the fact that (a) their Death school spells tend to heal them and keep them helping me longer, often dealing the final blow while I am pulling my heal to finish the fight near full health, and (b) Death school spells are 85% accuracy, better than the 75% of the fire spells my fire minion uses.  This meanstheoretically they fizzle less often than him. Not fizzling is a good thing in a tight spot.

Since you cannot even use the Summon Minion spells unless they come up in your hand, this leads me to:

Spell Deck Construction

You probably won’t have to reconfigure your spell deck very often unless you switch regions haphazardly and run into different schools of magic all the time. Usually, you will be in a region (or the entrance to a dungeon like a boss fight) where you know what you will be facing and you can change the setup of your spell deck when the time comes to move on. The exception to this are your treasure cards: if you keep discarding the regular cards and drawing treasure cards, you will run out and have to rely on regular cards. Therefore, after every fight in which you use a treasure card, you should replenish the treasure cards in your spell deck from your backpack.

The contents of your spell deck and treasure cards PLUS any extra cardgivers you might have (like special gear or a special pet-with-card) determine which cards can come up in your hand. But which cards actually DO come up is determined by a combination of random chance and the relationship between the size of your spell deck and the size of your hand.

For example if you have only 7 cards in your spell deck, or only 7 cards left in your spell deck, then since your hand has seven slots in it, every single card in your spell deck with show up in your hand of cards dealt. If you have 14 cards in your spell deck, only half of them will fit in the 7 slots of the dealt thand. You cannot be dealt more than 7 cards; the more cards you have in your spell deck, the less chance each card has of coming up in your hand.

When I was learming this, I was tempted to reduce the size of my spell deck so that all of my cards would show up at the beginning of a battle. I quickly learned that was a bad strategy in all but the lowest and simplest fights. Heres why: after the first round of combat, where (unless I pass) I have used a card, in the second round only 6 cards will come up because I only have 6 left. Next round I will have 5 cards. If you have less cards left in your deck  than the slots in your hand, your hand begins shrinking with every turn (empty slots are  not displayed); it is like you are playing poker and the dealer is giving you less cards every time he deals. Unless your spells function flawlessly or you beat the enemies quickly, you will soon have no cards at all to choose from. That’s bad enough when you are on your own; when you are on a team it means you cannot attack, cannot defend, and cannot heal yourself or any of your teamates. That’s when bad things happen and you become less popular.

So how do you avoid this? Don’t starve yourselve of spell cards. instead, use what I like to call “multiples and extras” to get around the limitations of your hand size.

Multiples. Let’s say you have  learned a total of 7 spells, but your spell deck holds 14 cards. If you fill all 14 slots in your deck, each card has only a 50% chance of showing up in the hand right off the bat. We’ve already seen that only fillinf 7 slots in the spell deck is not a good idea in any fights beyond the lowest regions. So what do you do? Well, you could put two copies of each spell into the spell deck. Now there is a pretty good chance that you will see representatives of most of your cards come up in the hand of cards. Not always, of course. You might see two of one kind of card and none of another. But it is still better than a dwindling hand, or not seeing your favorite spell when you want it.

 And the luck of the draw is what keeps the game exciting. Sure, in some games you can get cheats, hacks, or add-ons that make you nearly invincible. And after the first rush of slaughtering, you find the game has become boring, because it is no longer a challenge. In an actual real-world fight, you’d be a fool not to maximize your chances of winning and surviving. But in a game, to make yourself unbeatable defeats the entire purpose of playing, because it is no longer a fair fight — the outcome is never in question, and it is like trying to solve a mystery when you already know the answer. No challenge = no fun. If you don’t believe me, try it. When you play a game that you cannot lose, you lose the most important thing of all, the thrill of a well-fought victory. An easy victory is meaningless. If you or your kids don’t know that, you soon will.

As you progress up the levelling curve, you will find spell decks that hold more cards. usually they will let you put more copies of a spell into the deck if it is from the right school of magic. A spell deck designed for Fire School wizards will let you put in more copies of a Fire spell than of any other school spells. Say it allows 4 copies of a spell if it is from Fire school. Then I might put four copies of my Summon Fire Minion spell into the deck , I have a good chance of seeing at least one of the summon spell in my hand when the fight begins. of course, I might get a hand with all foour summon cards in it, but that’s fine: I can discard the extras to draw some of my treasure cards.

Extras. Certain pieces of gear give you more than one extra card. Wands and staffs, for example. Some of them will give you up to five or six extra cards. Do you remember how you got into the game when you hadn’t ecven trained any spells yet? They start you off with a wand that gives you an assortment of attack spells. When you open your spell deck, these extra cards from gear like wands or from the special pets I mentioned show up at the bottom of the display. And there’s good and bad aspects to these extra cards.

Good: they start you off with spells when you don’t know any yet. And some of these extra cards are 100% accuracy attack spells — they never fizzle. And the 100% spells don’t require any mana or power pips, which means you can use them and still accumulate your pips for more powerful spells. And you can use them even if you run out of mana during a fight.

Bad: 100% spells do less damage than the spells that can fizzle sometimes. But even worse than this is the bloat effect they have on your deck: the more extra cards you have, the bigger multiples you have to use to ensure you will see the spell cards you want to see early in the fight, because now you have more cards in your deck. This is why you will frequently see wizards playing with no wand or staff, and it’s easy to spot, because their hands move different when they are casting a spell. When you see this, you are either looking at someone who doesn’t have a wand they like, or someone who has decided that the card bloat caused by the wand is cramping their style. (Or sometimes, someone who just thinks the empty-hands animation looks cooler.)

I’ve played it both ways, wand or no wand, special pet or not pet. Since chance and all of the programmed variations make it very unlikely that you will ever see a complex fight play out exactly the same way twice, it can be challenging to draw valid conclusions as to what you can expect to work every time. Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.

Okay, this post is starting to get long and it is nearly 5AM here. Time to wrap it up and get some screen grabs to show you what I am talking about. Next time, I’ll talk about Wizard101 gardening, and why you should be doing it. We’ll go to my private castle in the sky and see what it’s good for. Until then, keep playing, and I’ll see you in the Spiral! –MRK

Twitter del.icio.us Digg Facebook linked-in Yahoo Buzz StumbleUpon