Shoot the Mage First

"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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Common advice in Shadowrun, where "Geek the mage first" is one of the first rules a new shadowrunner learns.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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
    • 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).
  • 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.
  • Inverted by Jedi-hunters, or at least former Jedi-hunter Atton Rand, during the Jedi Civil War. Rather than attack Jedi directly, it was far safer and more effective to gun down their Muggle allies first.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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: While in most cases this applies, what with mages throwing incantations that can move your party around and give you enough stress to drive you insane, this is the worst of ideas 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.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick:
    • When fighting Team Tarquin, the Order is quick to dog-pile 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. 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 group 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, so he wants Xykon taken out or at the very least distracted ASAP.

    Web Video 
  • 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).

    Real Life