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Sphere Order of Usefulness

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  • Sphere Order of Usefulness

    How do you rate the spheres in order of usefulness and why?

    Here are my thoughts though I am relatively new to the game.

    1 Entropy - positive or negative modifiers to just about anything.
    2 Time - post cognition alone is enough for the number 2 spot
    3 Mind - lie detector, aura sight, reading emotions, and mental defense
    4 Correspondence - everything at a distance and scrying too
    5 Life - Medic!
    6 Spirit - talk to dead people
    7 Force - modern times - everything is electric
    8 Prime - something from nothing, inflicts and heals agg. damage, honestly I don't really use this one a lot
    9 Mater - Bulletproof everything, again I don't really use this one, I can come up with a a lot of ideas but they're all vulgar.
    Last edited by Tuch; 10-02-2014, 06:47 PM.

  • #2
    It somewhat depends on your interpretations/treatments of Entropy and Spirit as the two spheres that have the most wide ranging usefulness depending on how you use them.

    That said:

    1 - Entropy. It is pretty much the only Sphere that's actually useful from 1 dot to 5 completely on its own and actually leaves very few holes in your abilities for it; even if other Spheres do it better.
    2 - Tie. Life and Mind. Basically the two essential "human+" Spheres. Both are incredibly useful for lots and lots of stuff.
    4 - Prime. Prime has so many important effects in it. Especially the ability to make Charms at low level if you stat yourself properly.
    5 - Correspondence. Very important to get 2-3 dots in eventually, and lots of utility, but not quite as fundamental.
    6 - Tie. Matter, Forces, Spirit. All useful if you're focusing on them, not so much if you're not.
    9 - Time. Post cog is nice... but eh. I can take Post cog as a Blessing or something if I feel the need. Time has 3-4 solid effects and otherwise it is just too unwieldy to care about.


    • #3
      All are incredibly usefull. But their usefulness depends on how the player uses them. That sphere that I never use may be the perfect sphere for someone else.

      That said:
      1.Prime: It's very powerful in conjunction with almost any other sphere (heal/inflict agg, creation, offensive countermagic, Charms and other magickal objects) And its necessary to have a good reserve of Quintessence. It's very useful in all it's levels.
      2.Entropy: For the reasons that Heavy Arms said. Part of its great usefulness comes from that lots of it's effects are coincidental. Those aren't so useful in Umbra.
      3.Mind: It's a "human" sphere, and thus necesary to master yourself (and others). It's also the sphere of ilusions and language. It can be very versatile and coincidental. It controls animal instincts too.
      4.Life: It's a "human" sphere. It's necessary for healing and can end the cliche of mages being fragile of body, surprising your enemies. It's more useful than Mind against living beings, as it can affect non sentient ones too.
      5. Correspondence: The unparalleled usefulness of levels 2 and 3 (casting at distance, scrying, teleportation...). Level four can be very powerful, if vulgar, in conjunction with other spheres.
      6.Spirit: it's very powerful if focused. Unparalleled utility in Umbra. It brings a new level of gameplay into the table.
      7. Forces: It's very versatile, from gathering information from electronic sources to creating illusions. Everything that moves or uses energy come under it's power and unlike Matter, it's useful in Umbra. Also, the destructive power of this sphere its legendary.
      8. Time: post and precognition are amazing. And they can be conjunction with other spheres to gather even more information. If focused, Time can be very powerfull, if paradoxical.
      9. Matter: It's very powerful if focused, however it hasn't the raw logistic utility of Time or Correspondence or the raw power of Forces. It isn't useful by itself in the Umbra and ain't particularly coincidental.

      Again, your mileage may vary a lot, and for very valid reasons too.
      Last edited by Aleph; 10-03-2014, 04:50 AM.


      • #4
        Pre- and post-cognition don't have the level of utility in my experience. It is far to easy to block post-cognition because the books say that too much time magic focused on a single point makes it harder to get good details. Just tossing a few dozen weak Time Wards on an event and by the point someone's pushed through them all trying to see what happened is near pointless. Pre-cog is even worse because you're only ever looking at a possible future amongst many. Pre-cog as a Blessing or Talisman is really nice, because it doesn't eat up your actions to use it, meaning you can see what's around the corner and actually do something instead of standing there and knowing what's about to happen but losing a turn (or more) of reaction time to do anything about it.

        Matter's utility in the normal world is immense, and easily coincidental (or at least vulgar without witnesses). The Quick and Dirty Artifacts section of Forged by Dragon's Fire is rife with ideas for how Matter can be put to very utilitarian use. And I've found it is actually one of the best combat Spheres for when vulgar magic starts flying because it can often end a fight without having to worry about dealing with directly damaging targets; just do something to the air around them.


        • #5
          Since you specified "useful" as the criteria:

          1) Prime & Entropy
          Prime has the power of making things -real- or not, while Entropy can sift through a thousand possible fates to isolate the one you need. These two spheres can stand alone or together, and are easily the most widely applicable Spheres in the game.
          1.5) Correspondence
          While it may not be the sexiest sphere, it is unavoidable. We think of the entire Universe in terms of shapes, places, and relationships. Correspondence would be a very good contender for first place in most stories.

          2) Mind
          A character with Mind alone could be a complete badass. The only weakness it carries is really it's greatest strength - it's all in your head.
          2.5) Time and Spirit
          Although they seem specialized, they are actually rather universal. Time is always very useful - but only with a crafty mage who doesn't push too hard. Spirit is AMAZING if you are focusing on it, but even if you aren't it is a sphere that really opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It can also somewhat duplicate other spheres, by way of spirit pacts.

          3) Forces
          The first among the three pattern spheres, it can often affect both life and matter pattern equally. This sphere is huge, and the potential it holds is vast.
          3.5) Life and Matter
          Finally the two basic pattern spheres I feel are the least "useful", unless they are a core focus of the character. Their range is limited - but within that range their ability to permanently alter the game shouldn't be underestimated.


          • #6
            The obvious follow up question: For those spheres you put on the bottom of the list, what would they need to be able to do to make them more useful?

            Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink


            • #7
              My bottom four:

              Matter mostly needs more text support. It gets left out a lot in supplements when showing off Rotes and in fiction. Mechanically a lot of its really useful low level utility spells could largely be solved by just having a decent amount of Resources. One of the reason Correspondence generally ranks pretty high is that it has extremely valuable utility spells mostly because they'd be really hard to replicate with anything else.

              Forces is too vulgar and very combat focused. The level 2-3 effects could use some serious help in being defined in ways that are coincidental, or at least easier to pass off if you do something like make the effect in a sanctum (something that's much easier with Matter and Life). The combat part is mostly a matter of writing where Forces is hyped up as a good combat Sphere so it seems to be flooded with combat rotes.

              Spirit is too ambiguous such that most STs end up limiting it more than it necessary. It could use a much more robust spirit negotiation system along side it to make it easier for it to know exactly what you can do with it. The other issue is that it is really Umbra focused. If your mage pretty much never enters the Umbra, Spirit becomes very boring very fast. If you're playing a game where breaching the Gauntlet is rare, this Sphere loses a lot of its usefulness. It could use more expanded lower level effects for non-Umbra focused games.

              Time needs to look at Time from Awakening.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
                The obvious follow up question: For those spheres you put on the bottom of the list, what would they need to be able to do to make them more useful?

                Well my bottom three are the Pattern Spheres. I don't think anything needs to be done to them, but as HeavyArms mentioned they do need better explanations. A lot of people think about Life as a healing thing... never considering they can grow gills, climb walls like an insect, turn themselves into a different person (even gender), ensure a successful pregnancy, purify food and water, or any of the other thousands of things it can do. Same with Forces and Matter.

                So to answer your question: these spheres really shine when the character and/or the story let them shine. The subtlety of these spheres is often lost in translation though, and people pigeon-hole themselves into the idea that Forces = Elements, Life = Healing/Harming and Matter=Transmutation or Shaping. Those are parts of it for sure... but they are by no means the bulk of it.

                Think: an assassin with Life and Forces. Illusions, perfect stealth, the ability to *literally* adapt his body to the situation, making punches carry the force of a bullet, never appearing with the same face twice.

                It's all in the situation and application.


                • #9
                  I concur on the need of better explanations. And it's important to look beyond the cliche.

                  For instance, my lower four:

                  Spirit: In order to use Spirit effectively the Umbra must be a part of the scenary. That's not to say that the characters should go into the Umbra. Actually, if the Storyteller take its time into creating spirits and make them interact with the mortal world Spirit becomes important even in it's lower levels as only with Spirit can spirits be seen, negotiated with, and confronted.

                  Forces: With forces everyone assumes that it's the fireball Sphere, and thus vulgar as hell. Well, Forces can be very vulgar but there is no reason to use it that way. For instance, with Entropy you may coincidentally cause an old wall to collapse (it was too old, it was time for it to collapse). But then why shouldn't you be able to do the same with Forces?, give the wall a little push and apply the same excuse. With forces you can control nearly anything, you just need to think in creative ways to do so.

                  Time: Time has a nearly useless level 1. It's very difficult to find utility to that level. But then, it's nearly impossible to counter Time effects without Time, especially the powerful (4, 5 levels). One trouble with Time it's that paradox hate you. Its not about making your effect seen like coincidental, because manipulating Time can't be coincidental.
                  Also, it's important to remember that there are various types of pre and post cognition. I reckon that Talismans of Time are very useful for the reason stated by Heavy Arms: "because it doesn't eat up your actions to use it". The trouble with just adding those effects into a wonder its that a Time 2 precognition meant to see what happened to a body prior to its death (that requires Matter) won't let you to retrace the path of an enemy thrall to it's master lair because that needs Correspondence, nor will let you to scan the past (or future) emotional state of the subject (that requires Mind). Pre and post cognition aren't just two effects, but two magical practices with a wide array of effects.

                  Matter: I don't get along with Matter. It took me years to notice that with Matter you can do such awesome things as turn the air into sleeping gas. Also, if Life lets to control yourself, Matter it's the "equipment" Sphere. You can better an object in inconspicuous ways, and modificate almost everything in the material world (it's called "material world", after all ).

                  I dont think any sphere it's broken. The usefulness of one or another depends on how the player and the storyteller interprets them.

                  EDIT: I said that manipulating time can't be coincidental. I was wrong, there are certain rotes that use time 3+ and are (sometimes) coincidental.
                  Last edited by Aleph; 10-03-2014, 08:59 PM.


                  • #10
                    From my point of view it is
                    1. Entropy - Nearly always coincidental and hard to counter because Fate and Decease are part of our everything world and unless you overdo it, it can make a butterfly effect.
                    2. Mind Nearly as coincidental as Entropy, perfect for Informationgathering and other stelf operations where you need to change yourself or another so that you decieve or show no (correct) weakness to another person and you are able to understand any language.
                    3. Life Being able to heal, see how much left in others until done and being able to change your body to look different and even soak supernatural damage from Vampirefangs, Werwolfclaws and spirits bring it uttility that should have at least one person in the group.
                    4.Correspondence Being able to know where exectly you are, shorting the way from a to b and doing many things at the same time because you multiply yourself is saving time without needing time and so much more coincidental because mayby you have an unknown twin brother or a Doppelgänger.
                    5. Prime: While not so obvious if you are an advanced mage you need it someday and it is always good to have a last resort weapon.
                    6. Forces: The elements are always arround us and so you can be very creative but can if not carefull create a big backslash.
                    7. Matter: With it you can easily feed vampires, make yourself a moneyshitter and have much more effects though most need to be at home because it is better to be guarenteed for it to be coincidental and you have no disturbing elements.
                    8. Time: Being able to look into past and future, being able to always know how much time something needs so you know if it is still possible or not and having with it the key for endless life is really usefull. Can be only countered only by time and it is very usefull in combat too. Though being able to be Flash and/or Neo comes with high Paradox costs and this can be a bitch like the greek propheties where you see something to happen which is the reason why it is even going to happen.
                    9. Spirit: It is affected by the Gauntlet so unless you have a Cairn and piss of Garou or live in Nature or you are a Master of Life and can not bring yourself to create without soul it can be more or less ignored. Though Ghosts can be usefull.

                    As I am from Austria I need to clarify two things.
                    First my native language is german and so please point out if the english I write is broken so I can improve.
                    Second I do not own VTMV nor any line after M20 because it is not out there and I wait for the translation.


                    • #11
                      Hi! Lifelong Mage fan, first time on this forum, and I'm here to be annoying and say: like everything in Mage, it depends.

                      The thing I've always loved about the Sphere is the sheer versatility. Playing politics? You could use "fighting Sphere" Forces to bend the air to evesdrop, become invisible, magnify light to far-see (or magnify), create holograms and hide evidence via illusions. From "the fireball Sphere". Likewise, Life is sometimes seen as just the "healing and/or claw attack" Sphere, but your cabals negotiations might go better if your Face had their pheromones jacked up, right?

                      I'm sure there's many many examples of all the Spheres in every endeavor (imagine having Mind 1 boosting stats at Midterms and Finals). Hope it's not a total cop-out answer, but it's just too dar-diddly-arn difficult to pick a favourite.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Aleph View Post
                        All are incredibly usefull. But their usefulness depends on how the player uses them. That sphere that I never use may be the perfect sphere for someone else.


                        Again, your mileage may vary a lot, and for very valid reasons too.
                        This sums it up best, along with Tritoninvestigator's comment above mine. As some commentators have noted, it is possible to achieve the same (or very similar, at least) results using different Spheres, though some may be more straightforward or efficient to use. And what kinds of goals or interests that you (player or character) have will significantly influence your choices.

                        But in the spirit of the post, and also to demonstrate my point, this is roughly how I prioritize the Spheres:

                        1) Prime: as noted above, skill with Prime is necessary for handling large amounts of Quintessence (particularly if you have low/no dots in the Avatar Background). It's also the Sphere that gives you some interaction against most other Spheres in theory; even if you aren't trained with the Spheres your opposition is using, you might be able to disrupt their Effects, or at least learn more about them, through Prime magic.

                        2) Correspondence: I am frankly still torn on whether or not Correspondence should rank even with Prime; the utility of sympathetic casting, and the ability to defend against it, definitely makes it a top-tier Sphere in my books.

                        3) Mind, Life: Mind is probably my favourite Sphere, but not the most important mechanically. But both it and Life rank here because, as others have noted, they are the "self-improvement" Spheres. In a lot of ways, I'm more interested in 'inherent' or 'internal' abilities, rather than things which rely on external factors or tools.

                        4) Entropy, Spirit: if I was making this list based purely on gameplay pragmatism, these two would likely be much closer to the top of the list, as they are both very flexible and powerful.

                        5) Time: One of my favourite Spheres, but probably more than any other suffers from "only as necessary as the rest of the world makes it." (Spirit is similar, but has more flexibility on its own) Being able to predict the future or control the flow of time are ridiculously powerful advantages, but almost anything that could be achieved with them could also be done without them. Optional unless you need to counter someone else using it.

                        6) Forces, Matter: the perfect example of how subjective these lists are. These Spheres are AWESOME, and their subject matter is FASCINATING, but they are just the least fascinating to me personally, as someone more interested in the arts and social sciences than STEM fields.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Tritoninvestigator View Post
                          Hope it's not a total cop-out answer, but it's just too dar-diddly-arn difficult to pick a favourite.
                          Originally posted by Kharnov View Post
                          Forces, Matter: the perfect example of how subjective these lists are. These Spheres are AWESOME, and their subject matter is FASCINATING, but they are just the least fascinating to me personally, as someone more interested in the arts and social sciences than STEM fields.
                          While threads drift...

                          A 3.75 year old thread was necroed... but it's not like it was a long thread.

                          Tuch asked what people to rank the Spheres in terms of usefulness, not personal tastes/favorites.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

                            While threads drift...

                            A 3.75 year old thread was necroed... but it's not like it was a long thread.

                            Tuch asked what people to rank the Spheres in terms of usefulness, not personal tastes/favorites.
                            Apologies, I honestly hadn't noticed that it was another instance of thread-necromancy when I posted. And I should preface that I don't really have any practical experience, I've never been able to pull together a group for a game of Mage ._.

                            But if I can expand a bit, what I was trying to say was that what Spheres are the most useful to a given PC will depend on the interests and knowledge of a particular player. The criticism is probably somewhat valid regarding Spirit and Entropy, but depends somewhat on whether we're talking about the most "useful" Spheres if we have that Sphere exclusively. Entropy and Spirit are some of the strongest Spheres on their own, but I feel like a lot of what they can do can be accomplished through combinations of other Spheres if we're not considering the utility of each in isolation.

                            The point about Matter and Forces is that my lack of interest as a player has an effect on the knowledge base that my character can apply to those Spheres in play. I've read the examples of Force Effects converting friction into heat to cause people to spontaneously combust, or using Matter to turn the air into something toxic, and they are awesome. But not having the knowledge of an engineer, physicist, or chemist means I have less understanding of how to use those Sphere on the fly, when I can't spend a bunch of time looking up 'how do I do that?' In addition, in the case of Matter, how important that Sphere is depends on how interested you are in playing a 'Artificer' type character; since that isn't generally a type of character I'm interested in building, the Sphere has less use for me than it would for the Etherite player who wants to build Liberty Prime. Of course, speaking in terms of pragmatic utility, I've seen discussions in these forums suggest that Wonders are an important part of powerful Mage builds, so that's a point against me in turn ^_^;


                            • #15
                              Could someone explain in more details why Entropy is considered by many as the most versatile and even best Sphere? The reasons I saw here were: coincidental and bonus to any ability.
                              All Spheres can be used coincidentaly, even the vulgar Forces can be and in a very very efficient way.
                              Bonus in rolls also can be done by lots of spheres and Life can literally give you a bonus in every roll and buff evry attribute.