Icewind Dale Spell Strategy
In Icewind Dale, it is wise to make efficient use of your spell casters at all times. The roles of clerics, druids, and mages will change over the course of the game. It is important to pay attention to your situation and alter your spell arsenal as the need arises. With that in mind, I'd like to take you through my analyses of "the" spells to memorize at different level ranges. This week, I'll cover the basics, when your characters are first to third level.
Designer, Icewind Dale
Black Isle Studios
Mages should alternate between Magic Missile and Sleep as their spells of choice. When it comes right down to it, Sleep is the most effective offensive spell for the low-level party in almost all non-undead situations. Magic Missile is useful against enemy clerics and individual powerful foes like ogres, goblin archer marshals, and orc shamans.
If you're playing an Enchanter, Friends is also an excellent spell to memorize immediately before having the Enchanter enter a store. Raising your character's Charisma can have a dramatic effect on prices. If it means the difference between buying Splint Mail instead of Chain Mail, it can be the difference between life and death. When encountering undead, mages would probably do best to use a spell like Burning Hands instead of Sleep. Even though the spell has a short range, it's a mage's best friend when skeletons and zombies are closing in.
When your characters reach third level, your choice of which 2nd level spell to memorize is extremely important. For all-purpose defense, Mirror Image is clearly the most effective 2nd level spell. At higher levels, this spell becomes almost ridiculous in its ability to thwart attacks. Because thieves may have to focus on trap detection at low levels, taking Invisibility is also very useful. It allows thieves to scout for traps without fear of being spotted by enemies.
By the time your characters reach the Vale of Shadows, it might be wise to learn either Agannazar's Scorcher or Melf's Acid Arrow. Both spells apply damage over two rounds. Agannazar's Scorcher is potentially the most damaging of the two because of its odd "death scythe" pivoting effect, but it also very dangerous for the caster and the party. Melf's Acid Arrow will only affect one target, but that target is assured to take damage over two rounds. If you encounter undead spell casters, a combo of Melf's Acid Arrow and Magic Missile can insure that they never get their spells off. If you have any weak fighters in the party, a spell like Strength can do wonders before a big battle.
Avoid these spells:
to stay away from at these levels: Blur (it just doesn't last long enough
to make it cooler than Mirror Image), Stinking Cloud (by the time you
get it, most of your opponents are undead), Ghoul Touch, Horror (ditto),
Armor (just stay out of melee combat, period), and Charm Person (not that
much return for your investment).
At low levels, Clerics are most effective as healing batteries. Although you might be tempted to get fancy with their spells, it's in your best interest to take as many healing spells as you possibly can. Sure, a Bless spell is nice, but it's not as nice as 8 hit points healed on a 10 hit point Fighter. A welcome addition to the Icewind Dale is Cure Moderate Wounds.
As soon as your Clerics reach third level, take as many Cure Moderates as possible. The staple 2nd level Priest spell from Baldur's Gate, Hold Person, is almost useless in the section of the game where you first hit third level, so you might as well stick to healing. Find Traps can be useful if you don't want your thief to scout ahead. Draw Upon Holy Might can also be very effective, but unless you have a fighter/cleric or ranger/cleric with high base physical stats, it's not that great at lower levels.
Avoid these spells:
to stay away from at these levels: Pretty much everything not listed above.
I know it may seem harsh, but low level Clerics are more important to
the survival of a party than any other character class.
Druids can be extremely effective at low levels. They have the healing capabilities of clerics with a few nice offensive spells. Aside from what I covered above, a Druid's best friends are Entangle and Flame Blade. If you have a missile-heavy party, Entangle is a great way to immobilize enemies for easy pickin's. By the time your druid reaches third level, Flame Blade will be a terrific weapon against the undead.
The coolness of Flame Blade is particularly nice when you consider that Druids are unable to turn undead. Unlike Baldur's Gate, Clerics do not have access to Flame Blade. When you're going up against undead and, later in the game, trolls, your Flame Blade will be your best friend in the world. However, remember that Flame Blades are considered non-magical for purposes of determining the creatures they can hit. If you run into some wights, you're better off using Shillelagh or Magic Stone to take them out.
Avoid these spells:
to stay away from at these levels: Barkskin really isn't that great, Hold
Person is pretty useless at the time that you get it, and Goodberry really
doesn't provide a good return for your investment.