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Secondary Mage - Nalia, Aeire or Jan?

I am doing my second ever playthrough of BG2, this time with SCS (tactics difficulty, with improved mind flayers, dragons, priests, mages, better calls for help and removing some overpowered items, not to say robe of vecna). As always, I am doing a run with a good-aligned party, and non-negotiable members of my team are

CHARNAME: Priest of Lathander
Imoen later on

Which leaves one more space for a mage-like character, plus one more character until I get to Spellhold. Options are obviously Jan, Nalia and Aerie. My original plan was to use Jan and Nalia and then ditching the latter before the Spellhold and keeping Jan. The main motivation being that he can get really good in Detect Illusion, and in BG1 and SOD everything and their mother cast improved invisibility left and right and if BG2 SCS adds SI:Divination to that, detect illusion remains the only option of disabling mages before they unleash their avalanche of disabling spells on my party (which, somehow, always manage to land).

So, my question is - who would you chose as a secondary mage permanently and who would you have in party until Imoen becomes available? As I see it, advantages of each of them are:

Jan : thief, and since Imoen has good open locks & detect traps, he can focus on detecting illusion and hiding in shadows + backstabbing, plus he is a mage specialist.
Nalia - pure mage, so faster advancement in spells, but overlaps with Imoen
Aerie - cleric spells, but slooow progression to higher-level spells in either ciricle

In particular, I wonder:

1) How important Detect Illusion is with improved mages in SCS? Can you live without it (especially with Keldorn's True Sight?

2) Is one cleric enough for the party? In particular, for CHARNAME I use mostly his steroid spells (holy power, boon of Lathander, DUHM and righteous magic, if I am not horribly wrong, make a cleric more devastating frontliner than a pure fighter of the same level). However, with improved mind flayers and mages, is it necessary to have lots of death wards/chaotic commands memories, effectively making another cleric a necessity (Jaheira doesn't count, cause she has shit wisdom and can cast only a few 5th level spells until very late in the game)?

3) Are there enough scrolls in the game to have, essentially, three good mages with good high level spells (two of the above until Spellhold, and Imoen plus the remaining one after it)?

Sorry for a long post!


  • DanacmDanacm Member Posts: 918
    edited June 2020
    With Keldorn in many situations the true sight from him is enough. There is very handful of battles where you need the detect illusion, but it is a huge boon.
    But you dont have a thief if you bring Aerie, and yourself is already cover more than enough cleric spells. So Jan or Nalia if you only want 5 characters until Imoen is back. Because Imoen is covers the same as Nalia, logically i should use Jan, he has mage spells and later traps. But in scs with only 1 mage in the party until Immy, is seems thin.

  • OrlonKronsteenOrlonKronsteen Member Posts: 871
    Full disclosure: I don't consider myself a great SCS player - still a student of the game. The question is further complicated by play-style considerations, such as which tactics you consider fair to use (versus those you consider cheesy), how much micromanagement you want to do, how many reloads you're comfortable with, etc.. But, if it were me, in light of your party composition, I'd probably pick Jan as the permanent secondary mage, and Nalia as a place holder for Imoen.

    Why? As a continually leveling thief, Jan gets access to thief HLA. UAI and spike trap (if you don't consider it too cheesy) are extremely powerful. I'm not sure which SCS opponents are immune to spike traps, but it's still a game-changer AFAIK. There are also a number of crazy tactics he can do by combining his two classes (and there are threads detailing some of these in the forums). Also, IMO, having a pure thief is just easier in a quality of life kind of way - you don't have to micro-manage Nalia by using rings, potions, and knock spells, which, depending on your disposition, can get tiresome pretty soon. Jan can do pretty much everything right out of the gate.

    Nalia as the secondary mage for the reason you mentioned - fast leveling, which means more spells and quicker access to anti-magic spells (Ruby Ray) which are really helpful vs SCS mages. Imoen can assume this role after spellhold.

    A note about Aerie: C/M is very powerful if played intelligently, and there are probably players who would argue for her as at least the secondary mage, and I am not one to disagree. Among the many tactics she's good at (including wonderful sequencer combos utilizing both cleric and mage spells), she can become defensively indestructible by buffing with both cleric and mage spells. Whereas death ward and chaotic commands can easily be dispelled from a pure cleric, a cleric mage can put spell immunities on top of these, not to mention additionally casting defensive spells like stoneskin, protection from magical weapons, etc.. So C/M is really good. The reason I wouldn't choose her is simply because I'm too lazy to do all that buffing over the course of a long campaign.

    As for your other questions:

    1. Detect illusion is great, but I think Keldorn's true sight should be enough.
    2. IMHO one cleric is enough. I recently asked the community if one pure druid was enough for an SCS run, and the experienced players said it was. A note about cleric buffs - you will find in SCS that mages are not shy about casting dispel/remove magic. You will find your buffs being dispelled a fair bit and may have to throw them up again, so it's a good idea to keep a close eye on who still has a chaotic commands active, etc..
    3. There should be enough scrolls. In addition to the ones in shops (and I recommend installing the SCS components that make scrolls more available) you will find some in random drops - be sure to check all fallen enemies, even low level mooks as they may have high level scrolls.

    Anyway, I hope this helps. Again, I consider myself a student of the SCS game so it will be interesting to see what the better players have to say.

  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 1,069
    You have two relatively weak party members, Minsc and your priest of Lathander, that I personally would swap out. But since you say they are non-negotiable then I'll stick to your specific question of who to choose as your sixth person. None of the three you mention are a perfect fit for your party composition but I'd personally go with Jan as he would provide Copper Coronet pickpocketing in the first part of the game and thief traps in the latter part of the game, neither of which you can get any other way.

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 212
    edited June 2020
    Anyway, I hope this helps. Again, I consider myself a student of the SCS game so it will be interesting to see what the better players have to say.

    It is very helpful and great advice, which seems to align with what others are advising :) I am also a SCS noob and in my first non-SCS playthrough on core difficulty (with a sorcerer protagonist, Aerie and Imoen) the game was pretty trivial - all I needed magic-wise was Breach or Stoneskin + Spell Immunity + Protection from Magical Weapons + Protection from Magical Energy and I could kill almost everything trivially without breaking a sweat. Which I found quite anticlimactic. As for how I play the game, I do reloads and pre-buffing, but not other things that I consider cheesy (i.e. no Shield of Balduran, no casting offensive spells into fog of war, no setting traps around dragons before they turn hostile etc). I have deep respect to people who can finish the game without pre-buffing and reloading, but that's far above my limited gameplaying skills...

    You have two relatively weak party members, Minsc and your priest of Lathander

    Out of curiosity, why do you think Priest of Lathander is a weak party member? I may be thinking BG1 way, but so far (BG1 + ToSC + SoD), he was by far the best tank & damage dealer, with the mentioned steroid spells. Plus, with clerics having a large number of spells to cast, gear to further increase wisdom, he could buff the rest of the party, provide lots of healing, do very decent damage with flame strike and holy smite and even do a bit of debuffing with greater command and silence, all without having to sacrifice spell slots. So, I found him a perfect jack-of-many-traders without too many drawbacks of master-of-none. Again, none of this might work in BG2, I've never played it with a cleric.

    As for Minsc, my main motivation for having him is that I like playing with a canon party. That said, despite all the love he is getting, I did find him least useful of all of them by far - Khalid was much better in every respect in BG1. Minsc was, for reasons unknown to me, very squishy and he would die by far the most of all characters, even though he has very decent stats. So, out of curiosity nr2, if I decide to replace him, who would you have instead?

  • ilduderinoilduderino Member Posts: 764
    edited June 2020
    They do very different things - Nalia will level up fastest as a mage (who become very powerful very fast) and can do basic thief duties. The others will progress much slower as a mage but can do other awesome things. Thief HLAs are really excellent and a cleric/mage is one of the most powerful combos (sequencers for cleric spells being just one of many many tricks). They are awesome late bloomers and as such will be powerful faster in a small party. In terms of power they are amongst the best.

    It depends what you want, how patient you are and how much you care about liking the character. I can’t stand Jan but he is very powerful late game. Do you want to romance Aerie? Subject to these choices, as you are a cleric, I would go with Jan and either of the others, swapping them for Imoen. If you don’t like Jan then keep Aerie.

    Re the questions, 1) I think Keldorn is enough but this is one reason for picking Jan, 2) yes and Jaheira can help and 3) unlike Icewind Dale you can well use three high level mages very well with what is available.

    I love Minsc from an rp perspective. Sadly it is much easier to paper over a low strength ingame than other stats due to the number of strength belts and items but not so many items for dex and con. Low int makes him vulnerable to mind flayers. So unfortunately Mazzy and Valygar can outpower Minsc (in your party Keldorn will want the dex gauntlets so Minsc will sit at -2 ac for example).

    Mazzy is a better tank, gets an ability off the bat that gives her high strength and gets grandmastery. She is also just all round great to travel with from an rp perspective. Valygar adds some very nice stealth backstabs and anti mage options, is born to wield celestial fury, gets some handy extra spells, will be a better archer, to name but a few benefits, the downside is less armour choices but those he gets are more than good enough.

    Also unfortunately single class clerics are weaker than almost any multi or dual class options as they lack multiple attacks per round that come from a fighter dual or multi, mage spells from a mage multi, thief HLAs from a thief etc etc. The gap in power gets worse as the game goes on making Viconia one of the least powerful high level npcs. Basically it becomes harder to dish out the same damage as others. To be clear, it is not hard to finish the game without a fully optimal group.

    Hope this helps!

    Post edited by ilduderino on
  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 1,069
    edited June 2020
    "Relatively weak" does not mean weak, it only means you could get more power out of that slot than you currently have. Everything you mention about a priest of Lathander would also be available from a dual-class fighter/cleric, who would additionally provide consistently high melee DPS instead of having to rely on frequently resting to refresh Boon of Lathander's APR boost.

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 212
    Ok, I appreciate single class anything being worse than dual/multi-class option, but I wanted a run with a 'pure' class. My next one will definitely be one of the quirky dual-class variants, most likely wizard slayer -> druid or kensai -> druid.

    So, if I decide to go against my non-negotiable principle and ditch Minsc for Mazzy, that would improve the party? I didn't realise Mazzy would be a better tank than Minsc - her being halfling, I would always imagine her as someone who sits in the background, barely noticeable, and destroys enemies with her bow while they are busy dealing with my tanks. But in that one run I did I never had her in my party, so I wouldn't know...

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 212
    It depends what you want, how patient you are and how much you care about liking the character.

    One of the reasons I wasn't keen on going with Aerie this time around (unless having a second cleric is really necessary) is that I found her (and Anomen too) unbelievably annoying, at least for most of SoA. And the whole romance thing was so shallow that I found it laughable. Jaheira is probably much cooler to romance anyway, seeing as she is one of my favorite characters and the only one I had in all 10 or so playthroughs of BG1 that I did.

  • DanacmDanacm Member Posts: 918
    There is nothing wrong with a pure class cleric. Every class is fine if you enjoy it :smile:

  • ilduderinoilduderino Member Posts: 764
    edited June 2020
    I think Mazzy is a better tank due to +2 ac and shorty saves. Minsc is more of a hit them hard berserker type. The one thing he has over Mazzy as a tank is the first level spell armor of faith which can give great tanking results with the defender of easthaven weapon and the toughness HLA. Shortswords are relatively weak so I would build Mazzy to use flails or axes (hammers can also work), especially once bows decrease further in power. Finally at high level with enough pips she can dual wield and possibly use the bonus attack shortsword, the defender of easthaven or crom faeyr in the off hand.

    Mazzy is one of the least annoying characters to travel with and I really enjoy using her. She has some great albeit slightly odd banters with Valygar and Korgan hits on her.

    Anomen is quite horrible to Mazzy and I don’t like using him, though he is powerful. I understand why he is how he is but I don’t think the game really emphasises that he had changed for the better after the test, maybe this is better if you romance him.

    I can just about tolerate Aerie but she is annoying, is bizarrely nasty to Jaheira in certain circumstances and I don’t like how you have to rip into her to end her romance. It is basically, hi welcome to the party, I’m sorry about your wings, whoa where did that baby come from?

    I really wish the base game had had more tolerable cleric types.

  • ilduderinoilduderino Member Posts: 764
    Can your pc dual class? I am planning to dual the mod npc Drake from a single class cleric to a fighter or thief once his BG2 content is available - a dual might “spice up” your pc?

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 212
    edited June 2020
    I could dual to either fighter or thief, but I want to keep him pure. I don't really have any problem with PC - I quite enjoy playing a pure cleric and he has done very good throughout BG1, TOSC and SOD. He has been my frontliner the whole time (partially due to me selfishly dumping all the best gear on him) and had the AC of -11 for the most of it, which I found brilliant. I also really want to get to level 7 spells, to use spells like regeneration to make him even better tank. But I am curious how would dual classing from cleric into either of the two work, since I think this is not the usual route people take - most tend to dual class into cleric, rather than from it.

    My issue is just assembling a good good-aligned party around him that will be close to canon good guys, but which wouldn't make me pull my hair out in every mage encounter that SCS has to offer.

  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 1,069
    If you were going Priest of Lathander as your party's only cleric, you'd ordinarily pick a "shorty" character for saves and would be looking to have top-of-the-line turning/dispel capability in addition to covering normal clerical casting needs like restoration. So dualing wouldn't be an option for you, nor would you want to dual if it were.

    As to whether Minsc or Mazzy make a better tank, I'd argue a fighter/caster multi would be a lot better power-wise than either one of them. But a lot of people find Mazzy to be the game's best-written and most inspirational character, plus there's the constant Bastila Easter egg if you're a KoToR fan.

  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 1,028
    Aerie takes a long time to really get spooled up, being a dual-class C/M, but once she does, she is probably the most powerful NPC in the game. Sequencers with both arcane and divine magic are incredibly powerful.

    The problem is that unless you are a completionist, or patch the game with additional quests, she won't hit that happy point until well into ToB - though she will certainly be a capable party member by the time you hit the Underdark.

    Jan is also a very useful NPC, in that he continues to develop his thief skills - which Nalia does not. I do not consider traps to be cheese per-se, but like anything else, they can be abused with meta-gaming. If you use them tactically/strategically, though, they are very effective and non-cheesy.

    Nalia? She is essentially a crappy version of Imoen with an annoying attitude. I took her in a party once, but no. I just can't. Sure, she can become a powerful mage, but you are still left with a thief that can barely thieve without potions, rings, or other gear. Note that no amount of potions or gear will let her set traps reliably. She's a mage who can pick locks, which leaves your party needing a real thief at times.

    As for Minsc? I used to be a die-hard about taking him as well. I mean, who doesn't love Minsc and Boo? Unfortunately, Boo being stuck in an equipment slot instead of a backpack slot means he only has two for potions or items. (That is fixable with a tweak pack) Also, he just isn't that great of a tank compared to other NPCs. Mazzy is a much, much better tank. Shoot, Jaheira is a better tank once she gets FoA or Blackblood.

  • iosfrustrationiosfrustration Member Posts: 153
    A lot of the difficulty in SCS comes from the fact that mages are god-tier and everyone else is on the back foot.
    Your party looks really RP heavy, your banters are going to be brilliant, this is going to be a fun game. so if it were me I’d dial that up to 11 and take Jan - between them he and Minsc will keep you giggling through the whole game.
    Many of Jans thief abilities are quite powerful in SCS. Detect illusion is one of the few ways to reliably spot invisible creatures that have cast SI: divination. Spike trap is effective against most enemies, and UAI makes him very flexible
    For the temporary slot I’d pick Nalia. She’s a little boring, but solid and dependable in the backup mage role.

  • DhariusDharius Member Posts: 487
    edited June 2020
    I think the OP has explained the reasoning for each of the three NPCs already...i.e. they’ve answered their own question.

    Any of the three would be good, and I’d definitely recommend taking Yoshimo (useful trap setter, potential warrior and decent thievery skills) first, then losing him at chapter four (for certain reasons, y’know) and replacing with Imoen. So that’s the party’s thievery basically covered, and Imoen is an excellent NPC that any party should have.


    If you like a (better) thief, take Jan.
    If you want yet another healer, and undead turner, opt for Aerie (also a possible romance option)
    If you want more of a straight mage, with a high INT (so no need to increase it too much to memorise spells) take Nalia.

    Given the party, I’d go for Jan, because I love thievery, especially pickpocketing. But Nalia would also be good, because mage combat is fun, and she can use thief weapons and armour, and her INT is higher, which is useful.

    You could also consider Edwin who is generally considered the best wizard in the game (but he may end up fighting your good aligned party members), or Neera (capable but wild mage, has lots of own quests compared to other NPCs, and a possible romance option) if you have access to her DLC. Haer’Dalis can also cast many mage spells, and as an all rounder could be good for the last slot. If only Yoshimo was more...permanent (sigh)

    On the other points, there should be enough arcane scrolls for a complete set for at least two pure mages and a third multi (or bard) in the game, possibly more.

    I think that a single class Lathanderite priest protagonist and Minsc as one of the warriors should work just fine. Nothing wrong with either. Lathanderites and Helmites are my favourite kitted clerics.

    Post edited by Dharius on
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