"By the way, if you're every playing a wizard, a smart DM will always target wizards first, especially high levels, because if you're obviously a wizard, any one with any kind of intelligence knows that you are the guy who dishes out pain, and dishes out pain in, like, a wide area of effect. So don't be the kind of wizard who dresses like fucking Gandalf!"One of the disadvantages of being on the wrong side of a wizard is that they are usually extremely dangerous. On the other hand, they are also frequently the easiest to eliminate. Therefore, taking them out first usually makes the rest of the battle that much easier. This is also a common tactic in settings without actual magic, where destroying the Glass Cannon who can destroy half your team in a single attack is a high priority. Wizards who serve as Enemy Summoners are also disproportionately valuable targets, as killing them off stems the tide of summoned mooks and may even banish/destroy the existing ones. Draw Aggro is a useful way to defy this, as long as it's not the mage drawing the enemy attention. Compare Shoot the Medic First, which is specifically for healers and support types, and Straight for the Commander, which is targeting the leader or general.
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Anime & Manga
- Averted in Fairy Tail: Due to the increasing trend of combining martial arts with age-old magic, empowering the user's body based on the level of their magic and how they use it, the mage is the LAST guy you want to take potshots at. Two Mage Killer assassins figured this out the hard way. Eight in-universe years after Natsu meets Lucy, magic-martial arts has grown so popular there's now a martial arts grand tournament focused on magic. Subverted multiple times when enemy mages try to pick off the younger but powerful mages, only for them to pull out a secret weapon and pummel the enemy with it, or their comrades to get enraged and hit the enemy even harder.
Films — Live-Action
- In the climax of Red Sonja, Sonja is fighting against her Arch-Nemesis, Queen Gedren. Every time she gets close enough to attack, a Mook teleports Gedren away and Sonja has to chase her down again, while the mage uses Voodoo-like magic to cut Sonja with a dagger. After this happens two or three times, Sonja has enough and chops the guy's head off.
- In the Tortall Universe, Kel often remembers her teacher's advice: When in doubt, shoot the Wizard.
- In H. G. Wells' Little Wars, there are three different units, including basic infantry, mobile cavalry, and ranged artillery. Guess which one will be the most likely target to attack or defend.note
- Common advice in Shadowrun, where "Geek the mage first" is one of the first rules a new shadowrunner learns.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- In most parties, the job of close-combat specialists like fighters and barbarians is to stand in front of spellcasters to prevent the enemy from invoking this trope.
- 1st Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting boxed set booklet Cyclopedia of the Realms, section "Pirate Isles of the Inner Sea". On pirate ships it was a standard procedure for archers to make anyone who was appearing to cast a spell their first target. Considering that mages start out with an AC of 9 and can only improve it by means of magical items, archers are deadly to mages who don't have a Protection from Normal Arrows spell up.
- Super Robot Wars features two different types of mecha, including Real Robots and Super Robots. Because super robots can dish out and absorb tons of punishment at melee distance, and real robots are smaller, more fragile, and more built for ranged combat, the real robots would be the most likely target to either take down or protect compared to their super robot counterparts.
- Killing the casters first is a good rule to follow in Dungeons & Dragons Online, given the general danger of spellcasters in D&D in general.
- Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time
- The Explorer Zombie wields a torch that can instantly burn your plants, and he moves fast. Thankfully he's about as durable as a common zombie. Using ice-element plants work too, to put out his torch.
- Ra Zombie can steal the suns around him if you're not quick to retrieve them. If you kill him, he'll give the suns back.
- Prospector Zombie, if not taken down fast, can use his dynamite to leap high across your defenses and end up in the last column, then starts eating from the back. Plants that can hit backwards (such as Split Pea) and plants with ice element (which stops the wick) is his perfect counter.
- Piano Zombie can command all the other zombies to dance and switch lanes, screwing with your strategy. Kill him and the zombies will continue walking normally.
- Tomb Raiser Zombie will periodically stop and throw a bone onto a random tile, and a tomb will raise from it, blocking your frontal shots. There's an achievement for killing him before he does so.
- Literal example with the Wizard Zombie, who turns more and more of your plants into useless sheep unless you kill it quickly (which will revert all transformed plants back).
- Like Wizard Zombies, Octo Zombies can render increasing numbers of your plants useless by throwing octopi on them, but they're even worse because they have far more health, and the octopi (which have a good bit of health each) have to be killed in order to remove them.
- In Spyro: Year of the Dragon, in the Charmed Ridge level, there are cat mages who'll hinder you in many ways, one of them is enlarging the Rhynoc Mooks, making them invincible in the process. Hit the cat mage to make the mooks return to normal and killable.
- Noted to be inverted by Jedi hunters, or at least former Jedi hunter Atton Rand, during the Jedi Civil War in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Rather than attack Jedi directly, it was far safer and more effective to gun down their Muggle allies first to mess with the Jedi's head. Shooting them in a way that wasn't immediately fatal, but most definitely would become such if they didn't get treatment soon, was the best way.
- A more traditional Star Wars example is in the early portions of Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. Early variants of the Reborn enemies are split between red-orange-clad ones who use lightsabers and blue-green-clad ones who use Force powers. While the former can only occasionally reach out beyond melee distance with a rare saber throw, the latter get insane abilities with the Force that can shut down any attempt to fight back against the saber-wielding one until you remove him from the equation.
- In Team Fortress 2, the only priority for a Sniper higher than killing Medics and their patients is killing any other sniper in the area before he kills you. However, a good Sniper won't seek out enemy Snipers the same way he looks for Medics because this wastes so much time as to turn both teams' Snipers into The Load (known as "weighted companion sniper"). Going for Engineers is something between Shoot the Medic First and this trope, given he builds and repairs both Dispensers (healing) and Sentries (which can kill boat loads of your teammates).
- Heavies are also a big target for everyone on the battlefield, due to their Mighty Glacier nature. A Heavy can put out an absolute hellstorm of death with his minigun and his Large Ham tendencies and large stature means he's a prime target for enemies, especially Snipers and Spies due to their weapons' ability to One-Hit KO any sufficiently immobile enemies.
- In World of Warcraft, during the Burning Crusade and Cataclysm expansions, the first rule of pulling in heroic dungeons was "kill the healer" while the second was "kill the mage." The most important priority was to stop the enemy healer from making the entire pull take four times longer. The second most important priority was not letting your entire team get burned to death.
- Lampshaded and overlapping with Shoot the Medic First (as both mages and healers were usually guilty of Robe and Wizard Hat) in Pre-Cataclysm Black Rock Spire. Lord Victor Nefarious, aka Nerfarion, oversaw one boss encounter from a raised dais, during which he yelled at the forces battling you to "Kill the one in the dress!".
- Baldur's Gate: Mages are so powerful that it is strongly advised you kill, disintegrate, swarm with insects or otherwise nullify them as quickly as possible, if not more so. The druid spell Insect Plague is very useful when confronted with multiple mages, especially if you know the fight is coming and begin casting the spell before they engage.
- Common advice for GrimGrimoire, especially where Grimalkin are concerned. Your rampaging dragon or chimera won't last long after a tiny cat mage puts it to sleep.
- The Dual Boss fights of Super Mario RPG usually had a wizardy character paired with a more physical character (Grate Guy/Knife Guy, Domino/Cloaker, etc.) The wizard character was almost always much easier to take down (and usually had more annoying and/or damaging attacks to boot).
- Darkest Dungeon:
- Applies in most cases, what with mages throwing incantations that can move your party around and give you enough stress to drive you insane.
- This is the main gimmick of the Brigand Cannon boss battle. If you don't take out or stun the respawning Matchman each turn, he'll light the cannon and BOOOOOOOOOM! About three quarters of your party's health is gone in a flash. There's a chance it misfires, but it's extremely slim.
- Subverted when fighting the Swine King, as killing Wilbur (the aforementioned mage) will piss the king off so darned much he'll start hitting your entire party at once with horrifically powerful attacks. So don't touch Wilbur until the King's dead.
- Dark Souls I:
- In the Catacombs the Necromancers don't respawn, but will resurrect the skeletons in their area (unless slain by a holy weapon) as long as they are alive. Therefore even if you have to fight through some skeletons first, the necromancers are top priority targets.
- In the Depths the Gaping Dragon battles is harder if you don't kill the Channeler first, as he not only fires magic at you from above, he buffs the dragon.
- Inverted in Dark Souls 2: If you kill the Skeleton Lord Pyromancer, he summons Wheel Skeletons, therefore he should be the last one to be killed.
- Bloodborne: Bell-Ringing Women are always high priority targets, since they can either (depending on area) summon new enemies, or buff and resurrect nearby enemies. They are usually smart enough to hide themselves behind lots of enemies either way.
- In MechWarrior series, taking out the high-damage Glass Cannon mechs like the Hollander II should be a priority. A Hollander II can handily slag mechs near its weight class courtesy of its shoulder-mounted BFG, but melts under return fire. Special mention goes to the Long Tom Artillery Tank unique to Mechwarrior Living Legends, which can smite an enemy from beyond visual range but has no point defenses, armor, or speed, must anchor down, and all but requires a Target Spotter; once the distinctive boom of its 200kg cannon is heard, radar goes passive until the tank is taken out.
- A general standby for the MOBA genre is a similar sentiment of killing the "carry" first (what the genre's players actually refer to as "mage" characters tend to be at a lower priority). This is preferably in fights in the early game because this sets them behind while correspondingly giving yours more reign to pull past the enemy's. This is also preferable late in a match because they will usually murder your entire team in short-order if you can't.
- PAYDAY: The Heist and PAYDAY 2 has an Elite Mook known as the Cloaker, which specializes in running at high speed, and the ability to instantly incapacitate a player with a takedown kick. A single Cloaker has the capacity to wipe out the entire team and multiple Cloakers are a disaster waiting to happen. As of the Hoxton Housewarming Party for the second game in 2016, Cloakers are relatively high on the "must kill" list for players, and are placed just before the Medic Unit added in said event on that list. Cloakers have pretty average health and suffer tremendous damage when shot in the head.
- Vandal Hearts is notorious for this due to overlapping with Shoot the Medic First, especially on the second game where both allies and enemies move simultaneously. Since mages can both fill the nuker and healer role at the same time, they are top priority targets eight times out of ten. Some complications arise if the mage is hanging back, so you have to bide your time until that unit is within targeting range. Furthermore, said mage must be killed in one turn to prevent it running back and healing himself (and others).
- In the XCOM: Enemy Unknown expansion Enemy Within, EXALT Heavies can elicit this reaction. Much like their XCOM equivalents, they carry a light machine gun and a rocket launcher. Much like a mage's fireball, their rocket launcher acts as an area-of-effect attack, and not only does it hurt, it has an alarming tendency to destroy cover, leaving your troops wounded and exposed to follow-up shots from Snipers, Operatives, and even Medics.
- For most Final Fantasy titles, if it's not enemies with white magic that you're attacking first, then it's enemy mages next on the list due to them having either powerful party wide hitting spells, using status magic to cripple you, or both.
- Sundered has Eschaton Cultists. While most Eschaton enemies attack by getting up in the player’s face and bludgeoning them with Combat Tentacles, Cultists will hang back and use their magical powers to summon walls that box the player in, as well as barely-visible energy balls that explode after a few seconds, dealing high damage. This makes them particularly dangerous during horde encounters, as the player may not see the energy balls thanks to all the other enemies that are swarming around and the Cultists themselves could be attacking you from several rooms away.
- PACT Support Ryders overlap with this and Shoot the Medic First. They may be completely unarmed, but they can wreak havoc on your battle plans by healing their allies, removing status ailments from other PACT units, and inflicting those status effects on your party, leaving you vulnerable to the actual damage dealers. That they tend to hang out at the back of enemy formations and have powerful shields to protect them does not help.
- PACT carriers and assault carriers also need to be dealt with quickly, as they do have firepower and they’ll also spawn new Ryders every turn until destroyed. They can even spawn more of the above PACT Supports.
- Fire Emblem: Magic damage hits the Resistance stat instead of the Defense stat, and most units with strong Defense have weak Resistance, so enemy Mages are capable of blowing up your tanks fairly quickly if you let them. They're also ranged attackers and will usually prioritize attacking melee units who can't counterattack, so killing them on the Enemy Phase can be difficult. And many promoted Mages can also Heal. Best to kill them quickly whenever possible.
- In Fire Emblem's co-genre codifier, the original Shining Force, enemy priority 1A is Straight for the Commander as his death is an instant loss for the player, and if he is out of reach, Shoot the Mage First. The GBA remake downgraded the Mage step, making Shoot the Medic First the second priority.
- In The Order of the Stick:
- When fighting Team Tarquin, the Order is quick to dogpile on the arcane caster the second they get the chance: not only is he physically the weakest, but Sabine revealed that he has a Contingency spell that will automatically beam him away when his HP drops low enough. However, said team also has a powerful psion, who might not be as strong as the arcane caster, but still isn't anything to sneeze at.
- In the Battle of Azure City, Hinjo tells the Order to ignore the fighting on the walls and go straight for Xykon, knowing that Xykon's power is enough to "alter the course of the entire battlefield" on its own (in fact, as an epic-level lich sorcerer, it's entirely possible that Xykon is by himself more powerful than everyone else on the battlefield combinednote ), so he wants Xykon taken out or at the very least distracted ASAP.
- The vampire possessing Durkon arranges several ambushes for the Order in which its vampire spawn try to dogpile the Squishy Wizard Vaarsuvius. Not only are they a high-priority target to kill, but the spawn's Life Energy-draining touch can leech away Vaarsuvius' prepared spells well before inflicting Critical Existence Failure.
- In Counter Monkey, Spoony repeatedly discusses this trope since Wizards are the primary area-of-effect elemental damage dealers and masters of Standard Status Effects. Even with one spell each, they can kill a party, as Spoony himself once demonstrated. Competent opponents know they are the biggest source of pain and should be dealt with first. He further advises players who are Wizards to not dress like the stereotypical Wizard to disguise their identity and avoid being singled out (In particular, not to dress "Like fucking Gandalf" and to carry a sword- not learn to use it, but have it as cover).
- Pretty much any soldier on the battlefield carrying a radio can find himself on the wrong end of this trope, particularly if he is trained in calling in air strikes and artillery fire.