A friend is joining the group in mid-campaign. A Pathfinder newbie, he's a strategy board game veteran so he's adept at complex decision making and lots of moving parts. He's expressed a desire to play a Wizard and be an Elf and seeks help in doing so.
The party has a Cleric, a Mage, and Inquisitor- an optimized Fighter shows up sometimes as well. 20 point buy. Two traits and all published Pathfinder material. We're all 8th level and he would come in at 8th with standard wealth by level gear. We'll probably play to 13th level.
In all my Pathfinder years, I've made exactly one Wizard! I want my buddy to feel on an equal footing. None of us will care if his character is "better" than ours, but I think my pal will feel bad if he's not up there in ability from what I know of his competitive gaming.
He's read the Wizard guides out there and has a provisional preference for Conjuration School, but not necessarily to be a summoning machine.
So I'm looking for feats, archetypes, traits, spells, strategy and general advice. Which is a lot to ask, so thanks in advance.
Wizard archetypes aren't necessary for a good wizard. Mostly I'd prefer to keep the bonus feats, arcane school etc. unless I was going for something specific. However one of the versions of Pact wizard is noticeably overpowered if you want to go that way.
It sounds like you're noticeably lacking in a front line when the fighter's absent. Given he's not interested in specialising in summoning this may mean that he needs to do damage one way or another - simply debuffing or using battlefield control with the usual conjuration spells won't help if there's just one inquisitor to take advantage. A wizard doing damage on a regular basis may want to take the evocation/admixture subschool. The creative destruction arcane discovery and the spell specialization feat combine well with that. If they take spell specialization then traits which reduce the cost of metamagic on one spell are useful, and probably empower spell to take advantage of those.
If he does go for mainly battlefield control/debuffing then rime spell and fleeting spell are useful metamagic feats.
I'll suggest a classic conjuration wizard. With the crafting feat I assumed an increase of 25% to wbl, and any scrolls crafted at 1/2 cost.
Level 8 Divination Wizard (Foresight sub-school)
Reactionary: +2 Initiative
Clever Wordplay: Int instead of Cha for Diplomacy
take the optional racial trait fleet footed for Run and +2 initiative.
Feats:Scribe Scroll, Spell Focus Conjuration, Greater Spell Focus: Conjuration, Improved Initiative, Craft Wondrous Item, Improved Familiar (Faerie Dragon).
Notable Gear: Handy Haversack, Headband of Vast Intelligence +4, Belt of Dexterity +2, Lesser rod of extend, cracked dusty rose prism ioun stone, 4 leaf clover, pearl of power level 1x 4. 8000g left for random wands, scrolls and whatever he might want.
The basic strategy here is go first (also always act in a surprise round if there is one), size up the room and try to use 1 spell to take care of the biggest threat, or just make the fight easier for your team. with Heightened Awareness you have a + 21 initiative, (feel free to swap out improved initiative if you feel this is overkill, Heighten on create pit, glitter dust, or euphoric cloud is pretty good instead) so you should go first 99% of the time. If nothing else, set up in a good position and give your allies all Fortell bonus (foresight level 8 ability) or debuff your enemies. Do not underestimate the Prescience ability, you can use 11 times per day. Arm your Faerie Dragon with wands, scrolls, pages of spell knowledge and he/she will help a ton as a complete second spell caster. If you max out UMD it can even use a wand of ill omen on enemies before you cast a spell on them. Use your high knowledge rolls to identify your target's weak save and exploit it.
Go to spells: Start the day with Extended Mage Armor, Ant Haul, cast extended See Invisibility and heightened awareness if you think trouble might be brewing.
Level 1 spells(7 of these): Grease can still be handy at this level, DC 22 if you use a pot of grease as a material component means this is still handy for many things even at this level, keep heightened awareness ready at all times. Vanish can be handy, lasts long enough for a whole combat too if you want to start summoning.
Level 2 (6 of these): Create Pit, Glitterdust, Euphoric Cloud. Each targets a different save none of them allow SR, and they all effectively take at least 1 target out of the fight. Invisibility and See Invisibility are staples at this level as well
Level 3 (6 of these): Haste will make you friends, Aqueous Orb is so much fun to roll around the battlefield, DC 23 reflex save or be scooped up (yes please). Nauseating Trail: cast on your familiar who than goes invisible and weaves a trail through/around enemies to nauseate them (fort save)
4th level spells: (5 of these) Black Tentacles is really nasty if you know you will have an amazing roll for it using prescience! Emergency Force Sphere (prepare 2 of these, you are squishy) Summon IV starts to get interesting, mephits are a grab bag for any situation, lion does some good damage. Dimension Door is another good escape. If you took heighten, pick a level 2 spell to enjoy the higher dcs here.
Wizards are relatively easy to build. If you follow these three simple rules you will have a Wizard that is relatively well optimized:
Rule #1 - Raise intelligence as high as possible
Rule #2 - Be a specialist
Rule #3 - Don't oppose Conjuration or Transmutation
Follow those three golden rules, and you will have a fine Wizard. What's tricky is playing the Wizard, and the key there is you want to view the bigger picture. There are plenty of great spells to control the battlefield, but great wizards look one higher: how do I control the narrative so that every conflict is approached in a manner that is advantageous to me? Wizards are capable of playing the game at a much higher level than other classes.
I would advise adding a few options for versatility particularly for a new caster. Also definitely avoid summons until he has strong system mastery. This is built to be more versatile and forgiving without sacrificing much power. Lv13-15 he should grab 2 metamagic feats of his choice and spell perfection. Familiars are stronger than arcane focuses but they do require him playing practically 1.5 characters
Here's my recommenced build
Level 8 Teleportation School
Arcane Focus Ring
Ability Scores and Items as Jayder's build. Also purchase a lesser reach rod, corset of delicate moves, and a cloak of protection
Traits: Reactionary + Pragmatic Activator
Lv1 Scribe Scroll, Spell Focus Conjuration
Lv3 Dimensional Agility
Lv5 Greater Spell Focus Conjuration, Quick Study
Lv7 Improved Initiative
Lv9 Planned Spontaneity
Lv10 Quicken Spell
Lv11 Spell Penetration
Skills- perception, spellcraft, knowledge(arcana), knowledge(planes), knowledge(religion), knowledge(nature), stealth, use magic device, and fly
Lv0 Detect Magic, Prestidigitation, Dancing Lights, Message
Lv1 Mage Armor, Grease x2, Enlarge Person, Heightened Awareness, Vanish, Alarm
Lv2 Glitterdust x2, Protection from evil Communal, Invisibility x2, Create Pit
Lv3 Spiked Pit, Haste, Resist Energy Communal, Dispel Magic
Lv4 Dimension Door, Black Tentacles x2
Lv3 Dimensional Agility
Keep in mind that Shift may work like Dimension Door, but it isn't actually Dimension Door. As a result, it doesn't strictly meet the prerequisites of the feat so you're relying on a generous GM to allow you to take it at 3rd level. I've also seen some stricter GM's say that they wouldn't allow this combo to work in the first place, so you're just as likely to get someone who torpedoes the feat altogether as someone who lets you pick it up early.