Use your illusion I

Illusionists, in 1st  and 2nd edition, were always the cute and cuddly spell-casters who could make the orc you were fighting grow bunny ears, and whose best option in a scrap was to disappear only to reappear when he whiffed with his puny dagger +1. No more my friends, the illusionist of third edition is the undisputed master of the shadow plane.  In this article, we will look at each spell level and the best options available for the illusionist who wants to be more than the party charlatan. In this article we will make use of the Player Handbook (3.5), the Players Handbook II, and the Spell Compendium, as each of these books has a plethora of useful new spells and are a must have for any 3.5 edition DM’s collection. 

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Level 0- One should not overlook the usefulness of zero level spells.  While ghost sound is the only PHB option for illusion spells. However, the spell silent portal from the spell compendium could have its uses.  One could use this spell on a door that the party thief is picking, covering up the noise. Or it could be used to prevent any makeshift alarm traps on a door.  For a zero level spell, it has options, if you are looking for a change in place of your typical ghost sound

Level 1- If your illusionist can tolerate the mockery of his party( about being a leprechaun, for example)the best 1st level illusion spell is, hands down, color spray. While its uses fade for higher-level spell casters, a first level spell that has four different status effects that is pretty tough to beat.  I have seen this spell used on my party at low levels and it practically incapacitated the entire group.  In fact out of the first level offensive spells color spray is probably one of the best spells overall.  Even though it gives a save, its area of effect is a cone.

Level 2- Invisibility is the bread and butter utility spell, which has dozens of uses and most likely will be memorized by an illusionist as soon as he can access 2nd level spells, but what if I were to tell you that by casting a second level spell twice you could kill 90% of monsters of any hit die that you could encounter… because that is what phantasmal assailants (spell compendium) can do for you!  This spell inflicts attribute damage not penalties meaning with a failed save they take 8 wisdom and dexterity damage.  This in itself is useful in making the target easier to hit ( by lowering dex) and easier for your spells to take effect ( by lowering wisdom) but if a second spell is casted within the duration, that is 8 more in attribute damage.  16 wisdom or dexterity loss will incapacitate most foes and if not make them sitting ducks for future mind-breaking illusions. Keep in mind the spell does have a duration, and at the end of which the spell will have no use, but if it is casts consecutively, it could lead to a potent combination.

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Level 3- Displacement is a very useful defensive buff but let us place another potent combination into our grimoire.  Suspended silence.  Silence is always a useful spell-caster bane.  This version gives us a command word activated ability.  Imagine casting this on one of your ranger’s arrows and having him pelt the lich with them; you speak the command word basically eliminating most of his offensive capabilities. Or using a bit of subterfuge (invisibility perhaps) you cast this spell on the enemy wizard’s favorite magic item.  When combat breaks out you utter the command to leave them spell-less, they must then make the choice to discard the item or go silent.  Plus one would imagine if it were a wand or staff they would be unable to activate it because you have silenced them. 

Level 4- Greater Invisibility is the lynchpin of mages everywhere, as they cloak themselves to reign death upon their enemies with little recourse.  Yet after annoying several DMs with this tactic, eventually more and more enemies will gain the ability to see the invisible, which is when the crafty wizard implements the ever-useful greater mirror Image (PHBII).  This spell not only creates more images than the second level companion, but also makes new images over time.  This makes the wizard practically as protected from attack as invisibility, but it is much harder to counter. 

-Ben

(Next time, we’ll look at level 5-9)

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