I was going to write this up a while ago but was holding off for spell change info and such but it looks like update 9 is still a bit off so I've decided to put it up now.
I play a pale master and love it. It takes a bit more gear than an archmage to work but once done it makes for a very high dc caster that is near indestructible. Many people ask me about my build which I will give later on but I am just going to go over some of the basics in building and designing your pale master with end game/epic content in mind.
Item's in the guide in red are ones that are new or heavily edited for U9 changes.
This will be one of your biggest decisions in your build. Most other build choices are similar no matter what race you choose so this is the biggest chance to differentiate yourself.
Here are my thoughts on the different races:
Drow--This is your highest dc available pale master. The extra starting int points put it ahead of any other attainable int score by at least 1. It is also your lowest hit point class. Starting with a 2 point lower con and only 28 build points (30 or 32 after tr's) means you will only be able to max both int and con after tr'ing twice and then you'll still only have a 16 starting con. Another benefit of drow is their racial enhancements are pretty weak meaning you have plenty of ap to go towards wizard stuff for which theres plenty to take.
Human--Compared to drow the human gets 2 more starting con, 4 more build points, one extra feat. It falls below max int possible by just one due to the human adaptability feature. Pale master requires all three wizard int enhancements so whenever your gear set puts you at an even number you can drop this for 4 more ap. This is a nice advantage over drow. A really strong choice.
Half-elf--Basically a human but without the extra feat. None of the dilletante feats and ap really give that much benefit to a pale master although cleric could be taken instead of using umd but that requires putting build points into wisdom instead of something else more worthwhile and spending a lot of ap that could better be spent elsewhere.
Warforged--Generally people go warforged on a wizard for the immunites, self healing, and extra hitpoints. Every immunity you have as a wf you have as a pale master except flesh to stone. You gain immunity to stun, dance, and command. Self healing is moot for a pale master so really the only reason to go warforged is for the hit points. With +4 con from lich form and a yugo pot active you have more than enough hit points for anything on any race really. Access to robes versus docents means access to some valuable items like regalia of the pheonix, epic robe of fire, and if we ever get high level lightning spells epic ironweave. I think WF is a poor choice for the pale master if your really worried about the hitpoints you could go dwarf and achieve the same thing and better saves (I still don't recommend this).
Elf--Currently elf is a poor choice. However eladrin just recently stated that the elven arcanum enhancement line will grant +1 spell pen and 20 spell points per tier. This means that for an elf come update 9 you can spend 10 ap to get 4 spell pen and 80 spell points versus 12 ap to get +3 spell pen on any other race. Elf will still fall behind others as far as overall dc but I think this change will at least give them some mention in the conversation.
Halfling, Half-orc, Dwarf--Don't
So out of all these my personal preference is Human. Having the extra feat and current max dc the same as drow due to drow being at an odd max helps cancel out the negatives of human over drow. Any of the above will work but I just think human offers more here at this time.
So now that race is choosen lets put your stats in. First thing max int. Next max con. Thats 32 build points. If you are a tr you can add some to str to avoid incapping while enfeebled and to up the carrying load or cha if you want umd. That was easy.
So let's figure out what feats we may want. We get 12 in all 13 if human.
Maximize-- a must
Empower-- a must
Heighten-- a must
Spell focus necro--a must
Greater spell focus necro--a must
Toughness--a must because of lich form requirement otherwise for certain builds this could actually be done away with.
That's 8 of your 12 heres a list of others to choose from
Insightful reflexes-- In epic content about the only thing that will 1-shot you is spells and traps this takes care of 95% of the spells. I highly recommend it.
Spell Penetration/greater spell penetration-- The more wizard past lifes you have the less importance these have. Don't neglect your spell pen however as your best single target damage spell relies on this as well as lots of cc.
SF: Enchantment/GSF: Enchantment--These are really nice to have especially if undergeared. Once you start getting up in the 40+dc without them though they become a little overkill. As of U9 I think the dependence on enhcnatment is much lessened and these aren't as strong as before.
SF: Other school--not enough spells come out of any of these schools to devote a full feat to them in my opinion.
Mental Toughness--A prerequisite for wraith form and a few extra spell points. While I don't use it very often I find wraith form to be very useful for several specific tasks and I would not enjoy not having it.
Skill Focus: UMD--Useful for a umd build to hit that magical 39 mark. More info on umd given in the skills section.
Arcane Initiate (tr's only)--If you have access to it take it, if you don't have access to it tr and then take it.
Shield proficiency and shield mastery-- This is a two feat combo that provides 15% physical damage reduction with am epic kundarak warding shield. Not the best option but if used in conjunction with all the temp hp gear available and other dr can make a palemaster really hard to kill. Considering epic mobs are generally dishing out ~50 dmg that amounts to a 7.5 dr that stacks with everything else.
As you can see there are more than enough useful feats for a wizard build making human even more important to me as a race choice.
As a wizard you should have plenty of skill points. Heres some tips on the ones I recommend. There really is no must haves here.
Concentration--while not really needed if you use quicken you can also turn off quicken for non-epic content and be fine. More important for umd builds to help make sure your scrolls are going off.
Spot--I highly recommend this one. Being able to see stealthed mobs can be important and you have plenty of skill points here.
Hide/Move silently--Wizards can be highly adept at stealthing and have plenty of skill points. Wraith form really helps here too. This is not a must have but can be really useful depending on play style.
Diplomacy--As of U9 this is better, it is a hit or miss unlike bluff and requires a pretty high skill threshold for it to be effective.
Bluff-- this really doesn't require much skill investment as you are looking for the -threat generation which happens anyways and being able to hit the dc's for sneak attack dmg is less useful
Intimidate--As mentioned above you'll often get to a point where you want to get hit. You can tank lots of things in the game and heal yourself. One of your best items once made epic also comes with a free +15 intim so your score should be pretty high. A lot less useful after u9 as it doesn't last long enough and it's hard to generate as much threat without high sp generation. Still useful for a quick pull off other players however.
UMD--This is one that is really dependent on choice. You really don't need it to help yourself it's more to help others. With a 39 umd and a few ap into wand mastery you can be an off healer or in really efficient groups just be the healer. I've solo healed several epics with my wizard tossing heals and cc'ing everything. This is really recommended for those that are well geared and run with well geared parties. Being able to raise is also a nice boon.
So in doing your enhancements you have a few ways to go here. Let's first look at what is pretty much essential here.
Wizard Int III-12 points
Wizard Energy of the Scholar III-6 points
Wizard Pale Master III-8 points
Lich Form-2 points
Wizard Capstone--2 points
That's 30 of your 80 points, So you have 50 to play around with.
Elemental lines--There are lots of ways to go here and there really is no wrong choice it just depends on play style. Some people prefer to max out or almost max out 2 lines while others prefer maybe max one and just a little in all the others. It depends once agin on preference. I like to almost max 2 as rarely between two elemental lines and your negative dmg or instakill do you not have a good option to deal with something.
Fire--Fire has lost a lot of it's oomph but is still fairly strong. The best part with fire is it's ability to easily handle undead which palemasters are a little short on tools to deal with. It lacks in single target boss nuking however which is another area palemasters lack a bit in.
Ice--Good aoe and single target capability. Does lack in dealing with lich/skeleton mobs which are also often hard for a palemaster to deal with. Very strong choice but need to back it up with another strong element usually.
Air--Better aoe than ice but less single target. A little weaker overall than ice in my opinion but fewer resistance problems.
Earth-- Probably the least useful of the elements for palemasters. The biggest issue is it's heavy reliance on lev 4 spells which palemasters are already hard pressed for. Also a little lacking in single target dps for anything with acid resistance.
Force-- Force has some good situationally useful spells. Meteor swarm disintegrate and horrid wilting make a pretty good trio of untyped dmg spells. Horrid wilting has targeting issues however and until that is fixed it loses one of it's better spells.
Spell pen line--This really depends on how many past lives you have. Shoot for a 30ish spell pen. If you can do it without these all the better as they are expensive.
Improved metamagic lines--These can help you stretch out your spell bar a bit. They are fairly costly ap wise though. Heighten line will oftne save you the most spell points but it is very costly ap wise.
Racial toughness--if you feel you need more hp then take these.
Other racial enhancements--human and half-elf get adaptability, drow really nothing, wf have con, elves will get arcanum but overall theres really must haves here unless you need the int to get to an even number or need hp badly.
Wraith form--I've already hit on this a bit but it's a nice useful if rarely used tool. Really boils down to personal preference. I would personally always have wraith form.
Vamp form--I am really not impressed with this too much. Enchantment spells are less important for me now. I don't feel like giving up 40 hp and making myself much more vulnerable to light spells is worth just one dc in enchantment while losing one dc in other schools.
Zombie Form-- Don't
Wand mastery--useful for umd builds.
Summons lines--While these may be fun while leveling, in endgame raiding and epic content they don't do enough of anything to warrant the high ap use.
This is not a highlight of all spells but ones more useful to a palemaster than other casters.
Death Aura- Every 2 seconds you get a pop for around 30 hp, 70 on crits. This spell is extremely efficient at negating all inconsequential dmg. Unless you have a large number of mobs beating on you or taking large spell dmg this is really all you'll need to keep your hp bar full. The more gear you get to also help negate damage the stronger this becomes allowing you to take a larger beating without healing via burst. Be careful around hypno'd or fascinated mobs though.
Negative Energy Burst- This is your oh $%^& heal. Use it to get a big fill up on your hp bar but excessive use of this runs your sp bar down quickly. At most times you should try to keep your hp up with death aura and use this only in emergencies. Also aoe and can draw unwanted aggro or break fascinates or hypno's.
Necrotic Ray- 20d8 fort save for half subject to spell resistance. For many things this out does polar ray for single target damage and has a much shorter cooldown. If you have the sr to make this land 100% you should use this on any susceptible creature who has a fort save of no more than 10 over your dc. There are very few creatures in game with a fort save of over 50 and if you don't have at least a 40 necro dc you have other issues.
Wail/finger- With u9 these are once again your bread and butters in epic content. Not much more needs to be said.
Circle of death- A good compliment to your other death spells. This gives you a good debuff if the fort save is made.
Undeath to death- A will save insta kill for undead fills a pretty useful niche for palemasters. Theres not enough undead at endgame to have this as an always loaded spell but if doing content with undead this is really strong. Very few epic undead save on this.
Symbol of death- This gives one negative level to a mob each time it passes through. It's situational useful but not that important. If I want to mass debuff mobs its often quicker and easier to hit them with a crushing despair.
Power Word Kill- I had found this nice to use on orange nameds with high fort saves but u9 patch 1 is changing that. Hard to see much use for it now but there's not may other level 9 options so it will probably stay.
Power Word Stun- This is a nice tool to handle orange nameds after u9p1 or any mob that may get a deathward up before you can kill it. It will always land and give a fairly long 50% increase to damage to burn it down.
Fear/Symbol of Fear/Scare-Everyone hates to chase after feared mobs so I wouldn't recommend using htese often but there are some good uses. In tod part three use on orthons for a cheap way to keep them occupied. In epic chrono you can use this on devils in abashai fight or archers/devils in steam tunnels fight. Also useful on bases 1 and 2 in von 6 as an alternative to fascinate/hypno that is nut subject to breaking on dmg (flensers on base 3 have extremely high will saves and this is not really efficient there.) I don't keep these loaded full time but if you remember to swap them out at the right times they can be strong tools to deal with things you dont wanna fight anyways.
Halt Undead- A useful tool in undead quests.
Free Nukes- You get three of these with your pale master enhancements. I rarely use the touch but the burst and blast are often used. I love the fact that I am not just sitting around in between casts of stuff anymore. These cost hp not sp to cast and in conjunction with death aura are virtually a limitless supply of dmg. They dont do a ton of damage, about 150 (75 on save) regular or 300 (150 on save) on a crit. They do have an extemely short 1 second cooldown though and are nice for nuking when you don't wanna use spell points or to slip into a nuking rotation of necrotic ray and polar ray when on cooldowns. Just using bolt and blast you will do about 150 dps on mobs that save half the time (most mobs don't so it's often higher). Adding about a third of a melee in for no additional cost isn't a bad thing.
There is a lot of different ways to gear a pale master. Generally a piece of gear should do one of two things. Make your spells better/stronger or make you more survivable. Pale masters are much more reliant on gear to make them really strong for epic content versus an archmage mostly due to the latter gear type. Once geared out taking hits becomes less of an issue and youll be able to withstand a lot more of these. Therefore gear that procs on hit is more of an option here. Listing out every possible piece of gear to make you better would be pretty intensive and other lists are out there. I am going to focus on gear that helps improve your defense allowing you to take hits and actually want to get hit even in epic content.
Epic torc of raiyum de II- This is your mana battery. Just a regular torc will work but this gives the added benefit of covering all your 8th lev and lower spells for sr and a colorless slot.
Demon Consort Bracers- These are one of your best items available for a pm. You are not subject to the negative level it bestows. The 20% chance for 30 temp hp is essentially 6 stacking dr and stacks with the lich form temp hit points and con opps. These three together really negate a lot of damage. The curse effect is often nice very little hits me lowering their saves and this is part of that reason. Epic these if you can for a yellow slot and a colorless slot and 15 intim.
Con Opp shroud item- My set of these is +5 fort save/50 sp 2 cha skills/100 sp 3 cha skills. Other options will work some prefer to use their hp item here I don't because I cant get cha skills on my item i use for hp. This is a supplement to your torc and your temp hp gear. While not really effective on its own it is nice when paired with other gear. I actually have 2 of these (boots and goggls that I use depending on the situation and what other gear I want. I just swap on whatever I choose here.)
Epic Lion headed Belt Buckle- This covers my str and my con, gives another yellow slot and a colorless and also the roar effect often bestow shaken on many mobs hitting me lowering their saves by 2. This and demon consort bracers curse effect help lower mob saves making sure if something is beating on me it wont be making a save. Even a non epic version wouldnt be bad as it gives you str to prevent helplessness con and the on hit effect.
Epic Ring of Mire-The earthen guard effect on this goes off a lot more than you would expect. Casting stoneskin becomes hard on a pm as your lev 4 spells are really hurt with needing death aura and energy burst. I've tried with wands but can honestly say this is on more than wands ever were. Not to mention the always on 10dr against piercing and the extra 3 fort save. This is what allows me to take a lot of epic archer hits while I've held the melees and fill up my sp bar. I don't wear the boots for the set often but I have a pair to swap to if i want striding balance or underwater action.
Enervation guard hp shroud item- I have these on a pair of gloves. A fairly high proc rate sees these go off often. Helping to lower saves and in epic if a mob hasn't already been attacked it takes off a lot of hit points also. +5 dex skills is also nice for balance and stealth.
Epic Robe of Shadow/Shroud of the abbott- Boon to undeath on these casts inflict light wounds on you every time you are hit melee or ranged. These amounts to about 8 points healed. In epic content this is 8dr/- essentially that stacks. It is very buggy right now and you lose the effect if you swap robes while in form or get deathwarded and can only be readded by dropping form and swapping the robe back off and on. Or by dying.
So with this setup everytime I am hit im melee I have the following
Chance to gain sp from torc
Chance to gain temp hp or sp from con opp
Chance to gain temp hp from bracers
Chance to gain temp hp from lich form
Chance to curse mob
Chance to shaken mob
Chance to enervate mob
Chance to cast stoneskin for 70 points
Gain ~8 hp
I also often wear epic boots of corrosion for disintegrate guard and the belt and bracers also have small dmg procs.
I can usually handle a couple of epic mobs beating on me and just have death aura keep me up with this setup.
I will have a full list of my gear setup later on in the thread.
For non epic content wail/finger eveything you can and cc or help dps those you cant. For certain raids you may have specific tasks these are no different than any other caster would have.
For epic content. Wail or cirle to thin out packs. Dont try and kill every last mob as often that will drain your sp fast. Some mobs are fairly difficult to instakill even with mid 40's dc's find other tools to deal with these as necessary. Pick up stray archers and let them plink at you to get sp procs while you and the rest of party deal with melee/caster mobs. If umd specced use your scrolls to help out the healer. Don't be afraid to tank a boss if needed.
That's pretty much it. Any feedback is appreciated.