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Is counterspelling with Dispel Magic broken?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


Ok, so I've been reading up on counterspelling and dispel magic and all that fun jazz for a wizard who specializes in fighting other casters.

However, while reading up on all this I noticed that the ONLY real obstacle to counterspelling high-level spells with Dispel Magic is a dispel check.

"When dispel magic is used in this way, the spell targets a spellcaster and is cast as a counterspell. Unlike a true counterspell, however, dispel magic may not work; you must make a dispel check to counter the other spellcaster’s spell."

If you use Dispel Magic to counterspell, you don't need to identify the spell being cast, but merely succeed on the dispel check. Furthermore, the DC for that spell check is surprisingly low. It is a simple caster level check against DC 11 + the spell's caster level. SO, if you're a wizard fighting against a wizard of a similar level, it's actually just a little under a 50% chance.

I was thinking that a caster level check would make more sense, honestly; with each caster putting all their willpower into thwarting the other. But with the dispel check, the opposing caster essentially "takes 11" on a caster check, which is not the best roll in that situation.

Basically, if you're a level 18 Wizard trying to counterspell a level 20 Sorcerer, you need to beat a DC 31 caster check to counter with Dispel Magic. To do that, you need a 13 or better on the die, which means you have pretty decent chances to pull it off. If you use Greater Dispel Magic, you gain a +4 bonus to your roll, requiring only a 9 or better on the die!

HOWEVER, the reason I bring all this up is because after much reading and cross-examination, I cannot find anything in the rules that states that the almighty Wish spell is immune to this! The text of Dispel Magic does not state it only works on spells up to a certain level, the texts for both Wish and Limited Wish do not say anything about being exempt from counterspells or Dispel Magic, and the text for counterspelling in general states that spell descriptions will provide all relevant information.

So as far as I can tell...the famous/infamous Wish...THE most powerful spell in all of Pathfinder or D&D...can indeed be countered and dismissed...with a 3rd level spell, and a half-decent die roll...

Should...should we fix that?...Does that need fixing?...

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

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Taking 11 is, statistically, better than rolling a d20, which gets you an average of 10.5.


You can boost the caster level for Dispel Magic even higher with feats, as much as +8.

Also, as I've stated in a previous post, Wish isn't really a great spell since the opportunity and material cost isn't worth it 99% of the time.

In other words, Wish/Miracle is a trap and shouldn't be taken/used in most every circumstance.


Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Taking 11 is, statistically, better than rolling a d20, which gets you an average of 10.5.

I mean...yes. I'm just thinking that if spells like Bestow Curse or Binding are immune to dispel magic, you'd think Wish would be as well lol.


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Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It does not need fixing. If you've got a readied action to dispel and the enemy caster does not take that into account, that's on him.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

You can boost the caster level for Dispel Magic even higher with feats, as much as +8.

Also, as I've stated in a previous post, Wish isn't really a great spell since the opportunity and material cost isn't worth it 99% of the time.

In other words, Wish/Miracle is a trap and shouldn't be taken/used in most every circumstance.

Well that's the issue! Wish is not very well suited for PCs who likely don't have the ability to spend 25K whenever they want, but it IS a good spell for Bosses who have enormous budgets and no reason to equip themselves with normal gear. So this could result in a player using a 3rd level spell to make high-level boss fights a whole lot easier than they are meant to be.


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SlimGauge wrote:
It does not need fixing. If you've got a readied action to dispel and the enemy caster does not take that into account, that's on him.

This.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

The initial caster is also doing better than your average combatant if you consider a defense roll to determine AC and define it as everyone taking 10.

But ultimately, I don't consider dispel magic-based counterspelling much of a problem. It can be really useful at times and it puts the PC spellcaster on the defensive with their actions. So it's not exactly overpowering.


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That just proves how big of a trap spell Miracle/Wish is.

Also, to clarify, the effects of Bestow Curse and Binding cannot be dispelled, but the casting of the spell can be.

And Slimgauge poses the biggest counterpoint of all, which is opportunity cost being potentially wasted. Not to mention that at the levels where Wish/Miracle are available, Rocket Tag is in effect, and spells like Wish/Miracle do not play well in those conditions.


It raises an interesting idea for a player or an npc.

Get a couple apprentices. Give them dispel magic wands. Bring them to a fight with a mage and have them just dispel while you cast.


How are they supposed to know you're readying an action to counterspell though? That seems rather metagame-y to me.


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Palidian wrote:
SO, if you're a wizard fighting against a wizard of a similar level, it's actually just a little under a 50% chance.

Consider it this way: you need to spend your action for the turn in order to give your opponent a 50% chance of wasting his action. This is actually a pretty raw deal unless you have a way of increasing your caster level substantially to improve your success chances.

A better approach is to take a readied action to cast a spell whenever the target begins casting his spell. In addition to getting your spell off as normal, you force a concentration check that could disrupt his spellcasting. Counterspells are actually pretty limited by comparison.

Where counterspells really shine is if you have an ability to perform them as an immediate action, allowing you to perform them in addition to your regular casting, but there are very few ways to do that.

Azten wrote:
How are they supposed to know you're readying an action to counterspell though? That seems rather metagame-y to me.

They don't know that you're readying an action to counterspell, but they do know that you're readying an action. Doesn't take a 20+ intelligence Wizard to figure out whose action you're probably going to try to disrupt ;-)


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Miracle doesn't have a material component ... wish I see as a last resort maybe out of combat type dealio. Miracle seems like an amazing option to me, especially for oracles.


Wish is not "almighty" (nor has it ever been) and it is not the most powerful spell (though arguably it was in the Master's Set).

It is a 9th-level spell that is very versatile, but it is not omnipotent, unblockable, or otherwise impossible to thwart.

It doesn't have any chance to knock out AMF (it isn't powerful enough to replicate Disjunction, which itself has only a small chance to do so).

Even a simple smokestick blocks some of the nastiest uses of Wish, like teleporting someone into the sun, because it blocks targeting (unless the caster has Echolocation, Firesight, or some such ability).


Mythic wish is pretty nasty.


As the dispeller, you are stuck readying an action that may never come, potentially forcing you to lose your turn. And in our game, the BBEG is always higher level than we are, so [on average] you still need a way to boost your caster level or you've wasted your turn and the spell, and the other guy still gets to cast. And you only get so many spells of a given level if you are a prepared caster. At present though, we're only 11th level, so that Dispel Magic 3rd level slot is precious to my bard. On the other hand, if I were a higher-level [or full] caster, trading that mere 3rd level slot to get rid of some 5th+ level spell from the other high-level opponent does seem pretty potent.

Optimization looks like this to me: be a spontaneous caster [then you won't be as likely to run out of dispel magic which competes with haste, fly, and fireball], and take the feats Dispel Focus and Greater Dispel Focus for a +4, ready your standard action to counter-spell, and be willing to give up your turn if you target the wrong opponent (or the guy opts to take another action) [as a bard, I am at least starting/maintaining a performance and getting some high-roll knowledge checks in, even without my standard action that is devoted to this dispel].


How about the Arcanist style of counterspelling? It doesn't use dispel magic usually, but I'm interested in how it compares.

Shadow Lodge

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Just lightning bolt them in the face. Its more likely to disrupt them


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Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I think counterspelling with dispel magic is so broken that in 17 years of playing games with this mechanism, usually multiple times per week, I can count the instances of anyone ever readying an action to counterspell on the fingers of one hand.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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I actually had a 3.5 druid that used Improved Counterspell a lot. He could drop 4th level flamestrike slots to undo enemy fireballs and lightning bolts.

And since he had an animal companion and summoned monsters, I didn't waste my whole turn being passive if they didn't cast. My animal companion would do some melee stuff, and I usually summoned nature's allies as an opening salvo, so I got to actively control them too.


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Zaister wrote:
I think counterspelling with dispel magic is so broken that in 17 years of playing games with this mechanism, usually multiple times per week, I can count the instances of anyone ever readying an action to counterspell on the fingers of one hand.

My experience is similar, but I can count it on the fingers of one foot.


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In my experiance it was never Dispel Magic, but "I ready an action to cast magic missile on him if he starts casting a spell." The damage I could put out at the time wasn't much for our level(5d4+10 thanks to my Orc Bloodline arcana) but it did force a concentration check and trading a 1st level spell for a 4th or 5th was a great option.


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Let us assume that you know who is an enemy caster among the opponents, and further, that caster is level 13 about to heave a 7th level spell and you are level 11.

Dispel Magic readied:
DC of the check:
DC = 11 + the spell’s caster level (13) = 24.

Dispel Magic check:
d20 (10 or 11 average) + your CL (11) = 21 or 22 on average.

This is very much not a certainty; it is not even likely to work.

To disrupt the spell exactly:
dispeller's d20 of 13 (12/20 = failure = 40% success rate) + your level of 11 = 24.

Magic Missile readied:
Concentration check forced by a readied damaging spell:
Injured while casting, DC = 10 + damage dealt + spell level

Magic Missile with 5 missiles = 17 or 18 damage average [assuming the opponent does not have shield, etc., and that you are not specialized in MM.]

Concentration Check required = DC 10 + 17 damage + SL 7 = 34

Concentration Check average:
d20 + CL + ability score = 10 or 11 on average, + 13 CL, + 8 ability score of 26 at 11th level = 31 = failure on average

For the concentration check to fail by 1 exactly:
opponent's d20 of 12 + 13 CL + 8 = 33 (and fails by 1 for the DC of 34)

12/20 = "dispel" success = 60% success rate for Magic Missile to disrupt

On a higher caster/spell level difference, the Dispel Magic is even less likely to work, whereas the Magic Missile remains equally likely to work.

It certainly seems that Dispel Magic is not overpowered for use in counterspelling, when it can be outdone by Magic Missile. Taking the feats to increase Dispel Magic will certainly influence this math, but the +4 for Dispel Focus and Greater Dispel Focus is only going to flip the 40% success rate for the dispel in the case above to a 60% success rate, that is equal to the magic missile. The Magic Missile is a lower slot, requires no feats, and actually does damage to the opponent also.

Note that in neither of these cases do you need Spellcraft to ID the opponent's spell, and Spellcraft rolls are generally not difficult to succeed at in any event for casters.


I don't think the Magic Missile damage is calculated simultaneously for the purposes of concentration checks, since each missile does its own set of damage, and the missiles aren't affecting the target simultaneously like they would in the case of Scorching Ray.

The more likely conclusion would be 10 + 5 + 7 = 22 X the number of missiles that would force a concentration check (which would again be 5), which a competent spellcaster chucking 7th level spells can do with relative ease. Even with optimization along the lines of Blood Havoc and Orc Bloodline adding +2 to each check via added damage, the concentration check is still easy enough to reliably maintain it.

Then let's take an optimized Counterspelling Arcanist at 11th level, with the Counterspell chain and Potent Magic exploits.

Caster Level 11 + 2 Spell Specialization + 1 Mage's Tattoo (Abjuration) + 2 Potent Magic + 1 Gifted Adept + 1 Myrrh + 4 Dispel Focus and Greater Dispel Focus = +22 to the dispel check, which means they only have a 5% chance to fail the dispel check against a CL 24.


I have a great preference for magic missile to force the spell loss.

however, there is one factor not counted here. Magic missile must penetrate SR.

Dispel magic does not.


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Aldizog wrote:
Even a simple smokestick blocks some of the nastiest uses of Wish, like teleporting someone into the sun, because it blocks targeting (unless the caster has Echolocation, Firesight, or some such ability).

A bit off-topic, but you don't need line of sight or even line of effect to teleport someone with a wish. You can wish people into the sun from the comfort of your home.


Perfect Tommy wrote:

I have a great preference for magic missile to force the spell loss.

however, there is one factor not counted here. Magic missile must penetrate SR.

Dispel magic does not.

Playing spell favorites because it's how you've always done it doesn't make it the correct choice, especially when we purposefully buff it for no reason other than having an arbitrary preference for using it to solve the problem at hand.


Forseti wrote:
Aldizog wrote:
Even a simple smokestick blocks some of the nastiest uses of Wish, like teleporting someone into the sun, because it blocks targeting (unless the caster has Echolocation, Firesight, or some such ability).
A bit off-topic, but you don't need line of sight or even line of effect to teleport someone with a wish. You can wish people into the sun from the comfort of your home.

Which 8th level or lower spell were you duplicating?

Interplanetary Teleport is a 9th level spell and requires the target to be touched. Wish cannot be used to duplicate a 9th level spell.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Unless there is errata I've missed, the existence of interplanetary teleport doesn't suddenly restrict the distance greater teleport can go, and, besides, it's not like you're necessarily going to wish them somewhere safe. You're sending them to the sun. There are, like, five places they won't explode, there.

All that said, wish notes...

Quote:
Transport travelers. A wish can lift one creature per caster level from anywhere on any plane and place those creatures anywhere else on any plane regardless of local conditions. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and spell resistance (if any) applies.

Hence.


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Volkard Abendroth wrote:
Forseti wrote:


A bit off-topic, but you don't need line of sight or even line of effect to teleport someone with a wish. You can wish people into the sun from the comfort of your home.

Which 8th level or lower spell were you duplicating?

Interplanetary Teleport is a 9th level spell and requires the target to be touched. Wish cannot be used to duplicate a 9th level spell.

From the PRD:

    A wish can produce any one of the following effects.

    Transport travelers. A wish can lift one creature per caster level from anywhere on any plane and place those creatures anywhere else on any plane regardless of local conditions. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and spell resistance (if any) applies.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

In any event, though I can see why the dispel magic might seem OP from a first look, as others have noted, in practice, it's really not as powerful as it looks at first blush, as counterspelling is, in general, not all that powerful, either.

As a more potent tactic against magic, later on, there's always Aroden's spellbane(+)antimagic field - congratulations, you're now invulnerable to magic, but can freely use your own! (Though that amf is prooooooooobably going to have to come down at some point or another, just to avoid annoyances.)

As to the power of wish or miracle - miracle is, by far, the single most versatile spell in the game, hands down. Wish is a close second, but neither are really broken, per se, and, really, it only becomes incredibly potent if you have an unlimited number of them via spell-like abilities from other creatures; that said, at a certain point, even infinite wishes won't get you truly unlimited power, as (as noted) the wish spell has numerous limits, and even the SLA can't do everything.

If I had to choose two, the "mightiest" (for a certain value) spells in the game would be gate and simulacrum, with miracle and wish coming shortly thereafter. Conjuration in general is pretty boss, though.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
John Mechalas wrote:
Volkard Abendroth wrote:
Forseti wrote:


A bit off-topic, but you don't need line of sight or even line of effect to teleport someone with a wish. You can wish people into the sun from the comfort of your home.

Which 8th level or lower spell were you duplicating?

Interplanetary Teleport is a 9th level spell and requires the target to be touched. Wish cannot be used to duplicate a 9th level spell.

From the PRD:

    A wish can produce any one of the following effects.

    Transport travelers. A wish can lift one creature per caster level from anywhere on any plane and place those creatures anywhere else on any plane regardless of local conditions. An unwilling target gets a Will save to negate the effect, and spell resistance (if any) applies.

HOLY MOLY I NINJA'D SOMEONE~!

I ALWAYS KNEW THIS DAY WOULD COOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMME~! :D


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... and at last, it has.


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Wish can be one of the more cost-effective ways to remotely murder people, assuming there's more than one person on your list. At 25,000gp per casting, a 17th level wizard with good buffs can send victims to the negative energy plane from the safety of their own home for the amazing low cost of 1,470 gp/person.

Be sure to cast it at night, since people probably aren't sleeping in their Cloaks of Resistance +5 (it helps if they are all in the same time zone).

Note: the effect on your alignment is left as an exercise for the reader. :-P

~~~

Wish is no more broken than the rest of high-level play in Pathfinder, though the material cost in this case shouldn't be overlooked. 25,000 gp isn't a lot of money to a wizard able to cast it, but the availability of a diamond that valuable should be another story. How many Hope Diamonds and Oppenheimer Blues are there in the world? Alas, PF doesn't address the rarity of absurdly valuable items because the rules are focused on combat and not the world economy.

In 3.5 Wish had an XP cost associated with it instead of monetary, though to a sufficiently high level wizard a few thousand XP here and there is chump change.

Shadow Lodge

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In 2nd Edition, a Wish magically aged you five years, but that was even less of a problem if your GM let you wish for 10 years of youth.

As for dispel-countering, yeah, usually "I counter with Magic Missile" tends to be more reliable, but it'll get embarassing if you try it on someone who had a Shield wand or scroll. That happened to me once.

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