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Master of One Magic

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A character that's the best at what they do, and what they do is magic. Well... a type of magic, to be precise. Whether it's summoning, elemental magic, or just plain old moving stuff, they're simply the best there is.

They're often used as Old Masters from whom The Hero must learn his ultimate powers. The Hero may even learn from several of them. Getting apprenticeship from these characters may comprise a bulk of the story. Of course, there's nothing stopping a writer from making The Hero into a Master of One Magic, although they usually claim that title only through sheer power alone.

If there's any magic-user organization that specializes in one type of magic, you can expect the Master of One Magic to be the head of the group. They're often subject to Crippling Overspecialization, especially if they only rely on the magic they excel at when they can generalize their abilities. Also keep in mind that "magic" doesn't always have to go by that name when adding examples. Enlightenment Superpowers, Ki Manipulation, Psychic Powers, and the like can be counted as well.

Compare The Archmage, a powerful and learned wizard, which a Master of One Magic often is. Also compare The Red Mage, who isn't a master of any one field but has a nearly unparalleled versatility. Poor, Predictable Rock is when someone is dedicated to a single element in an Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors universe. Contrast Master of All.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Zigzagged in Black Clover. Most mages are capable of using only one element, and all known exceptions are instances of experimented mages, hybrids, and powerful devil hosts. The Protagonist Asta can only use Anti-Magic, Magna can only use fire magic, Julian can only use time magic, etc. However, they quickly learn how to use their magic types to do many different things, with the most skilled mages able to do near anything they want with their designated types.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Roy Mustang is theoretically a fully qualified alchemist who should, by rights, be able to do all the stuff Edward Elric can, only slower (since he would have to draw a transmutation circle). In practice, he barely uses anything other than flame alchemy, an art of which he is the only practitioner, leading to a Running Gag that as soon as his gloves get wet, preventing him from igniting the explosions he's preparing, he's useless. The flipside is that he is very, VERY good at it when circumstances line up to let him show it off: just ask the charred remains of Lust, for example.

    Fan Works 
  • Littlepip from Fallout: Equestria has no ability to cast spells like other unicorns, all she can use is telekinesis, an ability innate to all unicorns, but she is very, very good with it, as one of her companions put it.
    Velvet Remedy: Your special gift isn't being limited to only one spell, it's being able to use that spell better than any pony in the last 200 years.
  • The Pony POV Series inverts this in the case of Trixie — most unicorns specialize in one field of magic or another, usually relating to their special talent. Trixie, however, never exceeded in any particular field, being modestly talented at all of them. While this caused serious issues, it also leads to one major bonus. She's second only to Twilight, who is an EXPERT at all of them.

  • Louise François LeBlanc de la Vallière of The Familiar of Zero fame seems to be the poster girl for this. In the ZnT world, mages have elemental alignments that can be stacked (a single-element mage is a Point Mage, one who can use two elements is a Line Mage, three elements give a Triangle Mage, and so on). Louise is constantly mocked for her absolute inability at producing a single spell of any element... Until it's discovered she's aligned to the legendary Void element, and she's ridiculously and scarily skilled in using its Explosion spell.
  • Megumin from KonoSuba takes this trope to the extreme in that she can only cast one spell: Explosion, an enormously powerful offensive spell that summons a massive fireball. Unfortunately, this spell is incredibly Awesome, but Impractical, combining the worst attributes of a Fireball and a Disintegrate spell from Dungeons & Dragons; it has a massive radius and doesn't discriminate between friends or foes, meaning it can't be used safely in confined spaces, and anything killed by it is reduced to ashes... meaning that any valuable bodyparts or other loot is lost. On top of that, it has such a high mana cost that even the most powerful archwizards can only cast it once per day. Megumin, on the other hand, flies past this trope into Powerful, but Incompetent in that she has focused all of her skill points on maxing out her proficiency with Explosion, completely forgoing expanding her mana pool or learning other spells, so she literally only cast this one spell, once per day. It's true that she can cast literally the most powerful iteration of Explosion ever seen in her world, but even the base damage from Explosion is so high that her version is usually massive overkill. Note that Megumin could learn other spells, she just refuses to do so, because she thinks no other spell is as cool as Explosion. Then it turns out that she was saving points, which she asks Kazuma to spend for her to make her a more well-rounded mage... but then he realizes that the best way to make her happy is to dump them back into Explosion again.
  • Slayers:
    • Sylphiel is a master of healing and protective white magic (she can cast such powerful healing spells as Resurrection), and almost completely inept in other kinds of magic. In the first season, Lina tries to make her cast Flare Arrow, a simple shamanic attack spell, and the spell comes out as a harmless carrot. Later, however, Sylphiel surprises everyone and learns to cast the Dragon Slave.
    • Lina herself is top of the field at black and chaos magic, and is actually the only practitioner of chaos magic in the world and intends to stay that way. This is not a result of her greediness, but of her moral character; since the only two chaos spells she's invented are the Ragna Blade, which exhausts her within seconds of being cast, and the Giga Slave, which will destroy the world if she loses control for an instant. She's somewhat less competent in shamanic magic and inept in white magic. Zelgadiss is the master of shamanism.
  • Codex Alera: Everyone (well, almost everyone) in Aleran society has elemental powers, though most people have access to at least a couple and the nobility have them all, with single-element crafters generally considered fairly lowly. However, there are certain single-element crafters who show that they can do a lot with what they've got — Amara and Isana with their wind- and watercrafting are the most prominent examples.
  • Rincewind the Wizzerd from Discworld could be considered a comical version of this: as a student in the Unseen Academy, he read a forbidden spell book and one single, very powerful spell lodged itself in his mind. The spell is so powerful that it's semi-sentient, crowding out his ability to learn any new spells. He's very much not the master of it, rather it's the cause of a lot of his misery in the early books.
  • The Dresden Files: Some people have some magical ability, but not enough to be considered a wizard. Some of those people focus on using one spell really, really hard.
    • Ernest Armand Tinwhistle (better known as Binder) is a "one-trick hack" who can summon up Faceless Goons. By the dozen in under a minute. And while they're nothing next to most of the supernatural baddies readers have seen, their sheer numbers make Binder the head of his own personal army capable of standing off forces technically far superior to himself and being a general nuisance enough to earn a good living as a mercenary. Just as long as nobody draws a circle around his lads, that is - though, as he hints in Skin Game, if he's prepared for someone to 'start playing circle games', he can work around it (he leaves precisely how unspecified).
    • Mortimer Lindquist is an Ectomancer, who specializes in magic related to ghosts and spirits. He's even better at it than most wizards and can do things like borrowing combat skills from them. We later find out he's served as almost a second Wizard of Chicago preventing all manner of ghostly threats from hurting anyone.
    • The Alphas, Harry's Friendly Neighborhood Werewolf friends, are regular people who learned a "human-to-wolf" spell rather than possessing any of the more traditional curses associated with lycanthropy. Billy (the group's leader) does mention that the spell has a secondary application as a healing spell, and describes it as being similar to transforming into human form.
    • At one point in Ghost Story, Harry's friends have to fight a Kinetomancer, who specializes in force magic applied to physical movement. Meaning he's incredibly fast and strong.
    • This trope is deconstructed in regards to Hannah Ascher, who's very good at Playing with Fire but sucks at pretty much everything else. While she is very, very good with fire, quite a bit better than Harry (who's certainly no slouch with pyromancy himself), she has little combat versatility and is no real match for a more experienced combatant, as shown when she and Harry finally get into it. Even with all her skill and Lasciel and all her knowledge of Harry's tricks and spells on her side, Harry puts her down with relative ease and spends most of the fight begging her not to force him to kill her. She doesn't listen.
    • The Tabletop Game has this type of magic-user as a playable "class", called the Focused Practitioner, whose main advantage is that they get to be very, very good at the one type of magic they practice. The sample Baltimore setting detailed in the "Your Story" gamebook has a character described as a Caffinomancer, a Focused Practitioner whose magic exclusively deals with the brewing of coffee.
  • Harry Potter: Hogwarts professors are skilled in magic in general, but each has a specialty that they are best at. The prime example is Gilderoy Lockhart, who unlike the other professors isn't any good at other kinds of magic (including what he's supposed to teach). He is, however, extremely good at memory charms, and uses this skill to make people forget their own heroic deeds, then take credit for them himself.
    • Harry himself is this trope, as he is decidedly average-to-poor in every aspect of magic except for defensive spells, in which he is a virtual child prodigy, mastering skills like the Patronus charm many years before it's even possible for most wizards. His reputation as such, especially when they keep him alive in many life-threatening incidents, has his classmates turning to him to teach them Defense Against Dark Arts when the corrupt Ministry of Magic prevents Hogwarts from teaching the proper curriculum in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
  • In Heroes Die, Lamorak is a crappy mage overall, but his Dominate is really good.
  • In China Meiville's work Iron Council Judah Low is the foremost expert in golemetry, animating non-living material with magic. He learned from a group of native nonhumans called stiltspears while he was working as a surveyor for a train track being planned. While the stiltspears treated the practice as childish play, the principles lead Judah to animate a startling variety of materials, including gunpowder, corpses, light, darkness, and eventually replicating the use the adult stiltspears turn the practice to in hunting, but on a huge scale by using some of the local magi-tech to power the creation of a Time golem, trapping the titular iron council forever and derailing everyone's plans in an anticlimax.
  • The Last Horizon: Wizards increase in specialization as they advance in power, making it impossible for a true archmage to be a master of more than one type of magic. Which is why Varic used a once-in-a-millennium ritual to steal knowledge from his alternate selves.
  • The Legends of Ethshar
    • Tobas of Telven from With a Single Spell spent months learning Thrindle's Combustion (a spell which uses a pinch of brimstone to ignite anything flammable no matter how wet it is or what the conditions around it are and makes existing fires explode with incredible force) because his master was a crabby old man who was reluctant to teach him anything else. After all that practice, though he's got it down cold, and it proves remarkably useful (a well-timed casting puts paid to a fire-breathing dragon, for example). He does learn other spells later, though.
    • The Frog Wizard is a man who easily and masterfully learned one incredibly complex and difficult spell—turning people into frogs—and nothing else. He uses sleight of hand to get by otherwise.
  • In The Locked Tomb series, each of the Nine Houses of necromancers has a specific specialty, in addition to generally useful necromantic abilities like wards. Of particular note within the story are that the Ninth House specializes in bone constructs, the Sixth House in Psychometry, and the Eighth House in the extremely dangerous soul siphoning.
  • In Mistborn, each of the Mistings in Kelsier's crew is a master of their particular Allomantic power: Breeze in Soothing, Marsh in Seeking, Ham in being a Thug, Spook in being a Tineye, Clubs in Smoking, and Kelsier himself in Pushing and Pulling. Mistings in general are this; since they have only one of the sixteen allomantic powers (as opposed to a Mistborn, who has all of them), Mistings who take their abilities seriously tend to get very good with them. Full Mistborn, by contrast, are much more powerful and versatile, but generally have less finesse in any given power because they're spread thinner.
    • Taking it to extreme are the "metal savants," single-metal allomancers who have flared their metal for so long that it's physically changed them. Spook becomes a tin savant in The Hero of Ages, giving the reader an example of how much you can accomplish with nothing but Super-Senses if that's all you have to work with.
  • In The Quest of the Unaligned, nearly all mages are born aligned to one of the four elements, and attempting to access any element beyond the one you are born with is impossible. The only exception are the unaligned mages of the royal house, who are born able to use all four elements. And the orahs and hosheks. But they don't exist.
    • An extra on the author's website tells the tale of Kaltin the Fool. Born aligned to fire, he attempted to master water as well and succeeded...for about two seconds. After that, the conflict between the two elements essentially caused him to explode.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Lightbinders can increase their ability in one power by specializing in it. Lyrah refuses to tell Daylen how this is achieved, wanting to give him as many incentives to join the Archknights as possible, but he later figures it out on his own when he channels light to his intelligence. While the details are saved as a Sequel Hook, it seems to involve using certain bonds only for the specialized attributes, as Lyrah always reserves two of her bonds for strength and refers to the third as her "free bond."
  • In The Stormlight Archive, each of the orders of the Knights Radiant has access to two forms of magic called Surges, plus a 'resonance' that combines both. Their enemies the Fused, in contrast, work differently - each order (or 'Brand') of Fused can use only one Surge, but between their specialization and the fact that they're all thousands of years old, most Fused are very, very good with their single Surge, to a level Radiants rarely attain.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Androl is an asha'man with very weak overall power but an enormous skill for portals and travelling weaves.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko and Nick Perumov's Wrong Time for Dragons, all members of Elemental clans can only control their particular element. It's not clear if anyone has ever tried to learn to control another element. Presumably, this is not looked upon favorably, as learning someone else's magic means you're not honing your skills in your area. So, Ritor may be the best Air mage in the Middle World, but he knows nothing about Earth, Water, or Fire magic. Ditto for Torn (Water), Anjey (Earth), and Navajo (Fire). The same is true for any members of any of the Totem clans. Totem magic is largely limited to enhancing physical combat qualities, although the status of a first-rank Totem mage is, technically, equal to that of a first-rank Elemental mage. When a third-rank Water mage forgets this and treats Loy Iver (the leader of the Cat Clan and a first-rank Totem mage herself) as someone of lower stature, she quickly reminds him by temporarily putting him under her control with some Cat magic. Averted with Victor, who is supposed to become the master of all four Elemental magics in order to become The Dragonslayer. However, it's implied that his mastery will disappear after his task is fulfilled (Ritor was once a Dragonslayer himself).
  • In the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony, everyone can only do one form of magic; basically, everyone just has one innate magic "trick" they can do. Some have the gift stronger than others, however, and the very strongest person in the land is usually made king. One king was a guy who was able to manipulate the weather; he used horrible storms to kill his nation's enemies, and nobody could pull up a tornado like he could. His successor, Trent, was a master of transformation magic. Humphrey was the best there was at information-gathering magic; if you wanted an answer, you went to him, and so on.

  • Seawitch implies that its witches are only skilled in magic related to the ocean.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons introduced the concept of "Specialist Wizards" in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, which invoke but play with this trope in various ways.
    • The "core" specialists of Abjurer, Conjurer, Diviner, Enchanter, Evoker, Illusionist, Necromancer and Transmuter originally sacrificed the ability to access a specific school of magic in exchange for increased proficiency with their associated school. In 3rd edition, this was changed to these eight specialists gaining the same increased proficiency, but having to sacrifice access to two schools of their choice.
    • The basic concept of specialists would be revisited in various sourcebooks, creating a wide family of 2nd edition specialists who gained increased proficiency with certain kinds of magic, at a lowered or prohibited ability to access other magics. In general, the most powerful the boost, the more restricted the specialist. Prominent examples include the Undead Master (a necromancer with increased aptitude for Conjuration and Enchantment spells, including the power to Command undead and extraplanar beings at-will, at the cost of being unable to cast Divination, Illusion or Transmutation spells), the Arcanist (a Ravenloft specialist with massive boosts to learning to Divination and Necromancy spells but equally massive penalties to learning spells from any other school), and the Dualist (a specialist who can use two normally opposed schools of magic with twice the proficiency of a normal specialist, but who forsakes every other school of magic to do so).
    • The 3rd edition iteration of the Forgotten Realms has the Red Wizard of Thay prestige class, which requires being a specialist wizard to get into and provides even more proficiency with the character's focus school a the expense of sacrificing access to a third school of magic.
    • Third edition also introduced a number of alternative arcane casting classes, who are able to use certain kinds of magic in much more expert ways than the standard wizard, but sacrifice much of the wizardly versatility to do so. Prominent examples include the Enchantment-based Beguiler, the necromancy-based Dread Necromancer, and the Warmage, who is a master of Abjuration and Evocation but little good at anything else.
    • Fifth edition takes the unusual step of making specialization mandatory, giving each specialization-based subclass an array of unique abilities to represent their mastery of that particular field of magic, but removing penalties; any wizard can cast any spell, but they'll be able to cast spells aligned with their subclass better.
  • GURPS also has schools of magic, similar to the D&D ones. Since GURPS treats magic in the same way as other learned skills, it is also possible to create a "Johnny One-Spell"; a character who only knows a single spell, but is very, very good at it.
  • Invisible Sun has Zelats, spellcasters who specialize in a specific type of magic, almost always to the point of mastering only a single spell. A few may be able to manipulate a particular facet of magic in a couple of different ways, but even then with a highly specific focus (i.e. magic to manipulate only plastic or wood).
  • In Mage: The Ascension, the Council of Nine Mystic Traditions is an alliance of nine groups of wizards with different philosophies, which all have an affinity with a specific aspect of magic. The master of each tradition is supposed to be the ultimate authority on that particular branch of magic (although they are all extremely powerful mages in general too, and most of them are masters of at least two or three other spheres of magic in addition to their specific area of expertise).
  • Pathfinder:
    • Since it follows on from the precedents set by D&D, Pathfinder has a similar situation. However, normal specialist wizards merely find it harder to train in spells from their "weak schools", and can actually choose which two schools they are denied access to. They also gain special abilities cementing their mastery over that school. (Suffice to say, there are very few generalist wizards.) The "Thassilonian Specialist" archetype/option is a Mythology Gag to D&D, where they function almost exactly like specialist wizards of 3.5 edition D&D.
    • The Summoner class focuses heavily on summoning. They actually lose out on gaining some high-level summoning spells (their spellcasting only goes 1th to 6th level rather than 1th to 9th like wizards, clerics, and the like) as spells, but on the other hand, they get the big ones of those as spell-like abilities instead, get to cast other summoning spells as lower-level spells and get a permanent customizable summon called an Eidolon.
    • In Occult Adventures we get the Kineticist class, embodies this in regards to the use of one of seven elements: aether, air, earth, fire, plant, void, and water. One can eventually do two elements, but the second will almost always be weaker, and it comes with the opportunity cost of boosting your element to its fullest potential, i.e. intensifying your fire blasts so they glow blue and hit like a pyromaniac's guilty dream.
    • From the same book as the Kineticist we have:
      • The Occultist, who can be considered guilty of this in two ways: one, being restricted to and an absolute prodigy with the use of magical artifacts and items, and two, potentially being able to hone one implement school of magic to the exclusion of almost all others.
      • The Mesmerist, which is functionally like a Bard that focuses on Mind Manipulation.
      • The Medium, which is functionally like a Summoner who utilizes a powerful spirit instead of an Eidolon.
  • Warhammer has plenty of characters of this sort. Indeed, since the vast majority of wizards in the game are only allowed to use a single spell lore at once (though most have several to choose from), specialization is the rule and breadth of magic the exception. As such any wizard with the "Loremaster" special rule would qualify for this trope, as the rule means that they know all the spells from the Lore of Magic they specialise in (usually seven), rather than the 1-4 most normal wizards get. Notable Loremasters include Balthasar Gelt (Lore of Metal), Mannfred von Carstein (Lore of the Vampires and Lore of Death), High Priest Khatep (Lore of Nehekhara), Tetto'Ekko (Lore of the Heavens), and Vilitch the Curseling (Lore of Tzeentch). Other very powerful wizards who only use a single lore of magic - such as Arkhan the Black (Lore of Death) would also fit. Special mention should be made of Kairos Fateweaver (Lore of Tzeentch) and High Loremaster Teclis (High Magic), who both have the equivalent of the Loremaster rule for their own discipline, but don't really fit the trope because they can choose to be generalists and take spells from all eight of the colour magic lores (in Kairos's case as well as his Tzeentch spells, in Teclis's case instead of his High Magic ones). The in-universe explanation for this is that the winds of magic are too powerful/abstract for human minds to use without sacrificing sanity or physical integrity (which Chaos worshippers naturally don't care about), so they're normally restricted to one; elves don't have this limitation and in fact are the only beings besides the lizardman Slann to be capable of using High Magic (which involves making use of all winds).

    Video Games 
  • In Disgaea, this is the case for all magic users; they specialize in one elemental damage type or healing.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has the Master Trainers of the various schools of magic. Each is able to train you to the very highest levels in their particular magical discipline.
  • Mages from the Final Fantasy series tend to focus on the type of magic they are named after, from the famous Black Mages, White Mages and Summoners to the adherents of more esoteric disciplines such as Blue Magic and Time Magic.
  • Elementalists in Guild Wars can use Fire, Water, Air, or Earth magic, but because of the limit in skill slots and skill points it's best if the player specializes in only one element (often Fire, which does the most damage to multiple enemies). This does not hold true in its sequel, Guild Wars 2, where the most powerful Elementalists will switch their attunements in combat for a given situation, usually to make use of their combo fields.
  • In MARDEK, Annunaki society is composed of seven Schools, one for each of the Annunaki Elemental Powers (air, water, fire, earth, light, dark and aether). The greatest of each school gets a seat on the ruling body, the Governance de Magi.
  • Amadeus from Trine is adept at creating objects and controlling them. However, he can't cast fireball, an extremely basic spell in the game, which has held him back in his academy throughout his entire life.
  • ZAngband has High Mages, a class which only knows one magic school instead of the normal two, but is very good at it.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, Archer has the unique ability to analyze, reproduce, and modify any weapon he sees. Their quality is so high, they're nearly indistinguishable from the originals, but they're slightly weaker than the originals due to the rules of magic. He makes up for the difference in quality with quantity, being able to make as many weapons as he likes for as long as he has magical energy. He's used this technique to stock numerous Infinity+1 Swords in his Hyperspace Arsenal. This also applies to the protagonist, Shirou Emiya. Which only makes sense, since Archer is his future self.

    Web Comics 
  • Sarin of The Dragon Doctors is a master of Shapeshifting magic.
  • Kyros of Irregular Webcomic! is a Player Character in a tabletop campaign with the rule that you can only spend XP on talents that you used in a session. This has led to something of a feedback loop surrounding the spell Fireball, which tends to be the only thing he uses in any given encounter, meaning it gets all the XP, meaning it gets more powerful and more tempting to use. He does eventually pick up some other forms of elemental magic, but his default reaction to most problems remains his fireball, which to the eternal irritation of the Death of Extremely Overpowered Fireballs somehow never seems to kill any of his party members no matter how irresponsible he is with it.
  • The Erlkönig's magic in Roommates is almost exclusively darkness based, he can wring out an astonishing number of effects from the element (from using shadows as teleport network, to dream manipulation), though.

    Western Animation 
  • To be expected in Avatar: The Last Airbender, since only the Avatar can bend more than one element:
    • Toph and Bumi are the best Earthbenders (one contest between them ended in a draw because the others didn't want that massive battle to attract attention). Toph even invents a brand new form of earthbending that she's still the best at in The Legend of Korra.
    • Master Pakku is the best Waterbender.
    • Ozai, Iroh, and Jeong Jeong are the best Firebenders.
    • While each element has many techniques, the assassin called Combustion Man by the heroes (we never do get his actual name) has honed one rare firebending ability to perfection - the ability to focus his power into one tight beam that causes a massive explosion.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, all unicorns can learn magic, but most only learn basic telekinesis and spells related to their personal area of expertise. For example, Rarity's magic almost always relates to beauty and artistry.
  • In The Owl House, Emperor Belos establishes and enforces the Coven system, in which all magic users are required to join one of the nine covens. This, in turn, prevents them from using any type of magic besides the one used by their coven. Each of these covens is then represented by their most powerful member known as a Coven Head, and all Coven Heads are part of the Emperor's Coven, the only coven where witches are allowed to become Masters of All.

Alternative Title(s): Magic Master, One Power Wonder