Author Topic: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)  (Read 2341 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

bkdubs123

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 2724
    • Email
Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« on: June 29, 2011, 07:49:56 AM »
So, in this project I aim to consolidate all the spells listed, at first, in the SRD into a list of Tiers, very much inspired by JaronK's original Tiers. This list of Tiers can have any number of potential uses and I have several ideas myself. I hope to come to a consensus with other members of the forum on, first of all, the descriptions of the six Tiers, and second of course, the placement of individual spells within the designated Tiers. So, read through, analyze, critique, evaluate, do what you've gotta do to help me make this as useful and relevant as I can.

Spells will be placed in the Tiers with consideration given to the level at which they are obtained, not necessarily their relative power level before or after spells of that level are available to cast, though spells that remain potent or useful for significant levels after they become available will certainly be given special consideration.

I am familiar with several of the most common tricks and abuses, however I am quite sure there are many more subtle tricks with which I am woefully ignorant, so keep that in mind and be sure to point things out as you see them especially in the case that you think such a trick might raise a spell by one or more tiers.

As usual optimization (or fumblingly inept play) can raise (or lower) a spell's Tier placement. Your mileage may vary.

Spells marked with a ? are spells for which I am very unsure of their Tier placement. Help would be appreciated.

Eventually I will probably use color-coding to note spells on the "high end" or "low end" of their respective tiers if we can agree on initial placements. Hopefully, I'll even expand this to other lists of spells someday.

The Tiers

Tier 1 - These are spells which are capable of directly solving encounters all by themselves and worse, are applicable in a diverse set of encounters.

Spells
[spoiler]
Dominate Monster?,
[/spoiler]

Tier 2 - These spells also directly solve encounters, but not quite so often or are not nearly as versatile.

Spells
[spoiler]
Alter Self (Abberration/Outsider), Astral Projection?, Baleful Polymorph, Banishment, Binding, Black Tentacles, Blasphemy?, Mass Charm Monster, Circle of Death, Cloudkill, Color Spray, Contingency, Deep Slumber, Destruction, Dismissal, Dispel Chaos/Evil/Good/Law, Dominate Person,
[/spoiler]

Tier 3 - These are spells will not normally solve an encounter by themselves, but can be useful as a potent attack or versatile utility.

Spells
[spoiler]
Acid Fog, Alter Self (Other), Animal Growth, Animal Shapes, Animate Dead, Antilife Shell, Antipathy, Arcane Mark?, Awaken?, Bestow Curse, Blindness/Deafness, Blink, Break Enchantment, Cause Fear, Charm Monster, Chill Touch, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Cloak of Chaos, Clone, Commune?, Confusion, Contact Other Plane?, Control Winds, Create Undead, Create Greater Undead, Creeping Doom?, Dancing Lights, Darkness, Daze, Death Ward, Deeper Darkness, Demand, Desecrate, Detect Magic, Dimension Door, Dimensional Anchor, Dimensional Lock, Discern Location, Disguise Self, Disintegrate, Dispel Magic (+Greater), Divine Power,
[/spoiler]

Tier 4 - These spells can seem to be potent or useful but they are generally not versatile and can often be shut down or marginalized.

Spells
[spoiler]
Acid Arrow, Acid Splash, Alarm, Animal Trance, Animate Objects, Animate Plants?, Antimagic Field, Arcane Eye, Arcane Lock?, Arcane Sight, Bear's Endurance (+Mass), Blade Barrier, Bless Weapon, Blur, Bull's Strength (+Mass), Burning Hands, Call Lightning?, Call Lightning Storm?, Cat's Grace? (+Mass), Chain Lightning, Charm Animal, Charm Person, Chill/Heat Metal, Clenched Fist, Greater Command, Command Plants, Command Undead, Cone of Cold, Lesser Confusion, Consecrate, Control Water?, Control Weather, Crushing Despair, Mass Cure X Wounds?, Daze Monster, Death Knell, Delay Poison, Delayed Blast Fireball?, Detect Evil, Detect Thoughts, Dictum, Displacement, Disrupting Weapon, Divine Favor, Dominate Animal, Doom,
[/spoiler]

Tier 5 - These are spells that are generally too weak or too marginalized to be much more than a waste of resources.

Spells
[spoiler]
Aid, Air Walk, Align Weapon, Analyze Dweomer?, Greater Arcane Sight, Augury, Bane, Barkskin, Bless, Bless Water, Blight, Calm Animals, Calm Emotions, Chaos Hammer, Command, Commune with Nature?, Comprehend Languages, Contagion?, Control Plants, Control Undead?, Create Water, Crushing Hand, Cure X Wounds, Darkvision?, Daylight, Deathwatch, Detect Animals or Plants, Detect Chaos/Good/Law, Detect Poison, Detect Scrying, Detect Secret Doors, Detect Undead, Discern Lies, Disrupt Undead,
[/spoiler]

Tier 6 - These are spells that fail, in just about every way imaginable, to produce any relevant effect.

Spells
[spoiler]
Animal Messenger, Animate Rope, Antiplant Shell*, Atonement, Changestaff, Continual Flame, Create Food and Water, Curse Water, Detect Snares and Pits, Diminish Plants, Divination*, Dream,
[/spoiler]

*As written the spell doesn't actually do anything.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2011, 01:02:04 PM by bkdubs123 »

bkdubs123

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 2724
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2011, 07:50:12 AM »
Reserved Post.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2011, 08:43:20 AM by bkdubs123 »

bkdubs123

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 2724
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2011, 07:50:41 AM »
I shouldn't need to reserve anymore posts. Feel free to comment on what I have so far.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2011, 08:43:31 AM by bkdubs123 »

shandiris

  • Ring-Tailed Lemur
  • **
  • Posts: 66
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "C's" in SRD)
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2011, 10:08:39 AM »
I assume the list isn't complete, given that tier 1 has only 1 spell. And you are missing a LOT of good spells in other tiers too.

That 1 spell though.... Why in the nine hells is blasphemy a tier 1 spell? It's quite situational, a single effect (combat only) and it's only really good in that one niche if you raise your caster level to insane heights. That for a lvl 7 spell is not in the tier of best spells...

tier 2: Color spray? the spell which makes you go within 15 feet of someone? Sleep is better at low lvls, grease is better at high levels.

tier 3: Chill Touch????? I have casted this spell once. ever... with a duskblade...

You might as well scrap this and start over..


bkdubs123

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 2724
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "C's" in SRD)
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2011, 10:30:47 AM »
I assume the list isn't complete, given that tier 1 has only 1 spell. And you are missing a LOT of good spells in other tiers too.

I thought the title gave that away.

Quote
That 1 spell though.... Why in the nine hells is blasphemy a tier 1 spell? It's quite situational, a single effect (combat only) and it's only really good in that one niche if you raise your caster level to insane heights. That for a lvl 7 spell is not in the tier of best spells...

I reduced it to Tier 2 before I'd read your comment. Anyway, you don't have to raise your caster level to insane heights to just win with this spell, and honestly if you're going to cast this spell you've probably increased your caster level to at least some degree.

Quote
tier 2: Color spray? the spell which makes you go within 15 feet of someone? Sleep is better at low lvls, grease is better at high levels.

Can Grease solve an encounter by itself? No. Can Color Spray? Yes. That's my definition of a Tier 2 spell. Can we come up with a better definition of what it means to be a Tier 2 spell? I don't know. Would you like to try and be helpful to that end?

Quote
tier 3: Chill Touch????? I have casted this spell once. ever... with a duskblade...

Unfortunately for you the number of times you have "casted" a spell will have no bearing whatsoever on the Tier placement of any given spell in this thread.

Quote
You might as well scrap this and start over..

You'll have to forgive me if I don't take this advice without so much as a grain of salt.

LordBlades

  • Bi-Curious George
  • ****
  • Posts: 524
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2011, 10:38:43 AM »
Tier 2: I'd drop Blasphemy to tier 3 and it's siblings to 4 tbh. The reasons for this is that blasphemy has an useful first effect (dazed) while all the others have the pretty worthless deafened. These spells are only useful vs. enemies that HD equal or less to your CL (or CL -5 for all others except blasphemy) which, unless you go for crazy optimization in this field is a very small subset of level appropriate encounters.

Tier 3: I believe animate dead deserves a tier 2. given the wide variety of stuff you can animate, it can provide a whole variety of benefits: melee muscle, disposable henchmen for trapfinding and the like, overland transportation (skeletal horses), airborne transportation (any flying monster zombie) etc. Also, IMHO Contact Other Plane is tier 1. Being able to get exact information about pretty much everything with carefully worded questions is incredibly versatile and powerful.




bkdubs123

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 2724
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2011, 10:53:58 AM »
[...]all the others have the pretty worthless deafened.

Now, that I hadn't ever noticed. There's also slowed vs weakened. Huh.

Quote
These spells are only useful vs. enemies that HD equal or less to your CL (or CL -5 for all others except blasphemy) which, unless you go for crazy optimization in this field is a very small subset of level appropriate encounters.

I could be convinced to lower Blasphemy to Tier 3 and the others to 4, I suppose. Like I said, I assume if you're casting them you're going to be bumping your caster level some (most casters get around a +2 boost to CL just in the course of "normal optimization"), but still monsters generally have noticeably more HD than you have levels. That's why I marked it with ? of course. Need to think on this.

Quote
Tier 3: I believe animate dead deserves a tier 2. given the wide variety of stuff you can animate, it can provide a whole variety of benefits: melee muscle, disposable henchmen for trapfinding and the like, overland transportation (skeletal horses), airborne transportation (any flying monster zombie) etc. Also, IMHO Contact Other Plane is tier 1. Being able to get exact information about pretty much everything with carefully worded questions is incredibly versatile and powerful.

My thoughts on this are that Animate Dead will never solve an encounter all by itself. It just won't do it. As far as Contact Other Plane is concerned, I don't want to start a debate on exactly what you can or can't do with it (that would be a powder keg), so let me approach the issue from a couple different directions:

1) No matter how much exact information you get from the spell that information isn't going to solve an encounter except in specialized situations.

2) The information you get, while it may be completely factual at the time, is subject to change in the time between casting the spell and acting on said information.

3) If it comes to it that Contact Other Plane is still deemed to be far more powerful than other Tier 3 spells and even Tier 2 spells perhaps it will be time to devise new definitions for the spell Tiers.

Faithless tbe Wonder Boy

  • Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
  • ***
  • Posts: 163
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2011, 12:40:08 PM »
Um, Animate Dead can absolutely solve encounters by itself.  And CoP can prep you to the point where you can make encounters trivially easy, or bypass them altogether.

Is your definition for "solving an encounter" that, during an encounter, you cast the spell, and the encounter ends?  Because that's going to end up being fairly limited in scope.  A spell like Animate Dead should almost never be cast during combat, but can give you more options than almost any other spell of its level.  (Honestly, any spell that gives a permanent resource is open to abuse, but Animate Dead doesn't even require much optimization to be insanely effective.)

This list seems to overly favor save-or-dies/save-or-sucks, especially area versions, because yes, with a little bit of luck you can completely shut down an encounter in one round.  But it DOES require luck, and a whole lot of other things to be going your way as well.

bkdubs123

  • Organ Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 2724
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2011, 01:01:06 PM »
Is your definition for "solving an encounter" that, during an encounter, you cast the spell, and the encounter ends?

Given that the definition of an encounter is left intentionally vague, I felt it was appropriate to leave exactly what "solving an encounter" means up to individual interpretation. With that said, my idea here is that if you can cast the spell one time, and for the duration of that spell, "solve encounters" without needing to expend any additional resources and without needing the help of any other party members you're looking at a Tier 1 or Tier 2 spell.

Quote
Um, Animate Dead can absolutely solve encounters by itself.

How so (meaning I'd honestly like to know)? What are you animating that can solo level appropriate encounters with no help? I suppose I should add a note that optimization (or total inept and counter-production use) might raise (or lower) a spell's Tier just like it can with a class.

Quote
And CoP can prep you to the point where you can make encounters trivially easy, or bypass them altogether.

Are we talking about casting nigh-infinite CoPs while in our morphic-time demiplane? Because that isn't using CoP by itself. I'm not trying to be combative, I'm just trying to set the goalposts for our discussion.

Quote
This list seems to overly favor save-or-dies/save-or-sucks, especially area versions, because yes, with a little bit of luck you can completely shut down an encounter in one round.  But it DOES require luck, and a whole lot of other things to be going your way as well.

Well, that's because for the most part, in the spells I've reviewed, I haven't come across many effects powerful enough to solve encounters all by their lonesome, at least not in the way as I've defined the concept, that aren't SoD/S spells. Of course, I've already suggested that it might be a good idea to produce new/better definitions of the Tiers, and if you have any suggestions lets hear 'em.

psyx

  • Ring-Tailed Lemur
  • **
  • Posts: 29
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2011, 01:14:32 PM »
I'd personally consider splitting the project into two silos: Combative and utility. There are some stunning utility spells around (detect evil, rope trick) that have little to do with combat generally. It would also make going through the list a little easier and less overwhelming.

Faithless tbe Wonder Boy

  • Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
  • ***
  • Posts: 163
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2011, 01:52:06 PM »
Animate Dead isn't so much about how you find that one perfect monster that ends encounters by itself.  It's about party resources.  It creates a permanent something out of almost nothing, and that permanent something frequently has abilities unable to be reproduced in any other way.  A permanent flying mount several levels prior to Overland Flight becomes available?  Sounds great!  A brute that can sop up more HP damage than any single member of your party, and is immune to most of the spells that shut them down?  How about three of them?  Oh, and it's an easily replenished resource that scales with level.

That's just using it straight, as written, without much crazy optimization.  If you're willing to really invest in the spell, you can get pretty ridiculous things out of it...

As far as CoP is concerned, yes, there are theoretical builds where you can know every single thing about a campaign, given infinite time.  But it doesn't need to give you every little detail to be effective.  Here are some fairly simple things that you can learn, which can toss big wrenches into a DM's plans:

1.  Locations of major events, enemy's bases of operations, etc.  Completely obviates many social encounters, clue searching, travel time (and associated encounters), etc.
2.  Defenses present in any given base of operations.  Sure, with just one or two castings you may not get every detail about their base, but you can probably get some idea of weak points, whether you're looking at magical defenses, traps, creature defense, or some combination of the above, that sort of thing.
3.  Types of enemies you might be facing.  A properly prepped wizard is a beast to behold, and can completely trivialize an encounter.  Oh, we're fighting fire elementals today?  Well, good thing I prepped fire resistance and Dismissal.  There's a dragon guarding the enemy's base?  Hey, crazy how I happen to have Spectral Hand and Shivering Touch.  I hope that encounter wasn't supposed to be difficult.  An army of trolls?  Hey, flight for the whole party, let's just skip this one all together.

Again, these are just basics.  The main point is that a wizard with prior knowledge of what he's facing can just rip through encounters, and CoP can give him that knowledge.

shandiris

  • Ring-Tailed Lemur
  • **
  • Posts: 66
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "C's" in SRD)
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2011, 03:07:49 PM »
I assume the list isn't complete, given that tier 1 has only 1 spell. And you are missing a LOT of good spells in other tiers too.

I thought the title gave that away.

Quote
That 1 spell though.... Why in the nine hells is blasphemy a tier 1 spell? It's quite situational, a single effect (combat only) and it's only really good in that one niche if you raise your caster level to insane heights. That for a lvl 7 spell is not in the tier of best spells...

I reduced it to Tier 2 before I'd read your comment. Anyway, you don't have to raise your caster level to insane heights to just win with this spell, and honestly if you're going to cast this spell you've probably increased your caster level to at least some degree.

Quote
tier 2: Color spray? the spell which makes you go within 15 feet of someone? Sleep is better at low lvls, grease is better at high levels.

Can Grease solve an encounter by itself? No. Can Color Spray? Yes. That's my definition of a Tier 2 spell. Can we come up with a better definition of what it means to be a Tier 2 spell? I don't know. Would you like to try and be helpful to that end?

Quote
tier 3: Chill Touch????? I have casted this spell once. ever... with a duskblade...

Unfortunately for you the number of times you have "casted" a spell will have no bearing whatsoever on the Tier placement of any given spell in this thread.

Quote
You might as well scrap this and start over..

You'll have to forgive me if I don't take this advice without so much as a grain of salt.

@ Blasphemy: It only ends encounters if all enemies are within 40 feet, are all of the correct alignment AND non of your allies is of that alignment, AND if your CL isn't high enough it doesn't instantly end. That + the fact that it's a lvl 7 spell makes it tier 3.

@ Color Spray: So your willing to put a wizard into alot of harms way so you can hope that he fails a will save and the action economy is 1v1 maybe 1v2? That's might be encounter ending in a VERY specific case, but that doesn't make it a good spell.

@ Chill Touch: My point was that there isn't any situation in which chill touch is a good spell. If you can name me one or two it might be a tier 4, but it's probaly tier 6.

@ the scrapping comment: Ok that was a bit harsh, I will admit. But you do need to rethink the current tiers because in your current system, very situational spells that will win an encounter or spells that instant win if all dice rolls go your way are high in tier. Here is an other description of an tier 1 spell.

tier 1: A spell that can be used in almost any situation and to which there isn't really an answer, or that gives you an advantage that will most certainly turn the tide of an encounter, or change all upcoming encounters completly (Shapechange, polymorph, CoP, Celerity, Time Stop)


Daniel678

  • Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
  • ***
  • Posts: 199
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2011, 03:52:50 PM »
T1:  Planar Binding, Greater Planar Binding, Wish, Miracle, Gate, CoP
T2: Reverse Gravity, Dispel Magic, Greater Dispel Magic, Web, Forcecage, Telekinesis, Haste, Glitterdust, Grease, Sleep, Animate Dead, Disjunction, Glibness, Freedom of Movement, Fly, Polymorph, Polymorph any Object, True Seeing
T3: Wall of Stone, Wall of Force, Resilient Sphere, Teleport, Rope Trick

I agree with shandiris that the definition of each tier should be changed.

I disagree with your definition of a solving an encounter. An encounter is solved if you don't need to expend additional resources. Even if you need your party members to mop up the fight it has still been solved. That's why glitterdust and grease should be t2. The monsters can still fight however they cannot fight in an effective manner the difficulty of the fight has been reduced to trivial. Spell level should play a part in this. Grease can destroy high level encounters in addition to low level ones. As you level the cost to benefit ratio increases dramatically (although the number of applicable situations is also reduced).

I believe that the following spells should be reduced:
Baleful Polymorph: A simple SoD that allows both a save and SR. It's flashy but nothing special. Having a chance of success and taking out a single enemy is T3 material.

Banishment: Same as above.

Binding: With a 1 minute casting time and high gold cost this spell should be reduced to t5.

Blasphemy: I agree that this is t3 material.

Circle of Death: Minimum CL is 11 and it only effects creatures of 9 HD or less. It also allows SR and a save. Bring it down to T4.

Cloudkill: A fantastic spell but it will not win a difficult encounter on it's own. It's a solid t3 spell though.

Contingency: A versatile utility. T3.

Deep Slumber: Sleep is so good because it "kills" 4 targets as a first level spell at level 1. Putting up to 2 targets to sleep as a 3rd level spell is underwhelming. It only gets worse after that. T5.

Destruction: A single target SoD with a save (especially one that targets fort) and SR is t3 material. It won't win an encounter on it's own.

Dismissal: Single target, allows save and SR and only works against a small subset of enemies. T3-4.

Dispel Chaos/Evil/Good/Law: Either a single SoD or dispels a single enchantment. allows a save for the SoD and only works against a small subset of enemies. Also requires 2 actions to use. T4-5 material.

Dominate Person: Either t4 or t3. it's strong but it can be shut down in so many ways. The extra utility is probably enough to bump it to t3 but the vulnerability to dispel really hurts it.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2011, 04:37:41 PM by Daniel678 »

rasmuswagner

  • Ring-Tailed Lemur
  • **
  • Posts: 84
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2011, 07:28:35 PM »
Create Food & Water belongs in T2. It can solve a few problems on it's own, but its main use is as a small but necessary piece in greater strategies.

Delay Poison should probebly be T3. At the low levels where it matters, it's the difference between life and death. It solves encounters with poisonous creatures - not without further dicerolling, but they're still solved.

Endarire

  • Man in Gorilla Suit
  • *****
  • Posts: 2171
    • Email
Re: Tier System for Spells (Through "D's" in SRD)
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2011, 08:57:53 PM »
Astral projection is T1 if done right.  You're invincible.
Barkskin is a solid T3.  Getting +2 AC for 10 min/CL helps.  It also stacks with everything.  It's a Druid staple!
Glitterdust is T2.  I've relied on it from level 3 to 10.
Grease is also T2.  I've used it to disable golems around level 9.  It's made foes fall in double-digit levels, too!
Hood - My first answer to all your build questions; past, present, and future.

Speaking of which:
Don't even need TO for this.  Any decent Hood build, especially one with Celerity, one-rounds [Azathoth, the most powerful greater deity from d20 Cthulu].
Does it bug anyone else that we've reached the point where characters who can obliterate a greater deity in one round are considered "decent?"