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Useless Useful Spell / Warcraft

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Over the long history of the series, there have been spells that just aren't worth the investment. Some got buffed to correct this or removed in sequels.

Warcraft: Orcs and Humans

  • The Human Clerics' Farseeing and the Orc Necrolytes' Dark Vision both work exactly the same, costing 1/5 their total mana to remove a small patch of shroud from the map. By the time the spells are available, you could have had a basic foot soldier or worker do the scouting instead, Each vision spell requires 1500 gold to unlock, which is very steep for their marginal benefits. Part of the problem was that this was before proper Fog of War became a regular feature in Blizzard games; once an area was explored, you could see it forever, and there was no need for lookouts or rescouting. The sequels had similar spells but buffed to reveal a larger area and also act as a Defog of War for scouting your opponents.
  • The Minor Summoning spells for each faction is generally a waste of time and gold, as Major Summoning is much more powerful and important to research. Warcraft III brought back similar spells now used by certain heroes and much more useful for a variety of tasks.
  • The Orc Necrolytes' Raise Dead ability summons skeletons so weak that they're like workers with a weak melee attack. Like Minor Summons, skeletons are heavily overshadowed by Major Summons.

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness

  • Death Knights' Raise Dead is this once again. The attack damage of the skeletons is at least better, but the mana cost is still a bit too much for the net result. Blizzard and Death-and-Decay will make quick work of any swarm of skeletons that happen to be raised anyway, while cavalry like Knights and Ogres make them a joke. The skeletons don't even benefit from your Blacksmith upgrades, unlike in Warcraft III which also allowed two skeletons to be raised from a single corpse. Skeletons became a tertiary resource of sorts in III as the Death Knight and Lich heroes have sacrifice abilities that can be used on skeletons to reap benefits for an efficient cost (healing for the DK, mana restoration for the Lich) and heroes may buy a Wand of Necromancy periodically to raise the dead without the aid of Necromancers.
  • The Death Knight's Whirlwind spell tends to get passed up as well. While a bunch of Whirlwinds can be fun to spam and cause havoc with and thus aren't a total flop, the movements of the Whirlwinds are randomized which can mean wasted mana for each tornado that drifts somewhere unhelpful like forest or rocks. In a serious match, Death and Decay will see much more use as it's much more controllable and mana-efficient (25 mana per wave), than the 100 / 255 mana needed for each Whirlwind.
  • The Ogre-Magis' rune mines (Simply called "Runes") look useful in theory but in practice are undone by troublesome drawbacks, the first one being the mines reveal themselves to every player periodically, ruining the element of surprise. Sure, they can be an area-denial tool against infiltration, but this requires that the map layout be just right, and the mines wear off after a set amount of time, diverting your attention. The spell isn't useless perse, just hard to find the perfect use for and requiring the ideal map layout, such that it's possible get by in a match without using it as Death Knights typically are the dedicated subversive unit. Finally, the mines can hurt your units as well the enemy's which can easily happen if your opponent lures your units into your own minefield by a long-range spell at an inopportune time. Another thing to take into consideration is that each cast of Runes requires a minimum of 200/255 mana, placing a significant amount of mines to control battlefield conditions will cut into mana for casting the devastating Bloodlust spellnote , and an attentive player won't fall for your minefield.
  • The Fireball spell that Magi start with looks like it may be handy when you want to damage a group of enemies in a line. However, most players would rather save the 100 / 255 mana it costs and wait for Blizzard to finish researching. Blizzard has a more efficient mana cost at 25 mana, providing a few seconds of ice shards raining on a randomized set of tiles around the selected spot. You can let the Mage continue casting to add another ice storm to that region, or cast elsewhere based upon changing battlefield conditions, letting Blizzard do what Fireball can do and more. To the spell's credit, while the effect's mana cost is questionable, it does work consistently which may prove useful in niche situations when you want to consistently strike a certain area for assured damage.
  • The Magis' Flame Shield spell is another spell that has trouble completing with the much more powerful Blizzard spell. It places a wreath of flames around any unit, friend or foe, causing area damage to adjacent units. The problem is, this spell has a very short casting range so trying to cast it on enemies will just put a Mage into the line of fire while Blizzard has more than twice the range and can deal far more damage to a group of enemies with proper micromanagement. Unlike Fireball, you have to pay gold to unlock the spell so there's even less motivation to use it.
  • Paladins' Exorcism is very restricted on targets it may affect, only working on Death Knights and their Skeleton minions. It's very uncommon for players to unlock Paladins anyway as Magi are much more important. This isn't helped by the fact that the Magis' Polymorph lets you snipe Death Knights too, also works on living targets and uses less mana (200 vs 240). Exorcism research requires a total of 3900 gold and 500 lumber when counting the Paladin upgrade and Church where it's researched, so you need to take out at least five Death Knights (1200 gold each) just to offset the total resources spent. This was corrected in Warcraft III with the Holy Light spell which heals the living and also harms the Undead.
  • The Paladins' Healing is rarely worth the micromanagement as this game predates conveniences like auto-cast spells, limiting its value to preserving high-value units like Gryphon Riders (who are very expensive at 2500 gold per Rider).
  • Troll Berserkers can have Troll Regeneration unlocked that allows them to very slowly heal back to full health. The effect costs a steep 3000 gold (plus the 1500 gold for the Berserker upgrade) and is much less helpful than the Elven Rangers' equivalent ability to gain Marksmanship (+3 damage).

Warcraft III (Including The Frozen Throne)

  • The Naga Sea Witch has Mana Shield which looks like a nice way to save her from an untimely death by using mana as a shield, but if you spec into it early, then you must either give up points in Forked Lightning or Frost Arrow, two much better spells. Using your mana as Hit Points is also defeating the point of using a caster hero to begin with as it effectively takes her out of the fight that much sooner. Even if a game allows her to reach Level 8-10 and have all her spells unlocked, it's still a lackluster ability due to it reducing your mana supply; if your Sea Witch is in danger of dying, a Scroll of Town Portal or Potion of Lesser Invulnerability (both of which can be obtained by throwing a handful of gold at a neutral shop) is a much better option.
  • The Death Knight's Animate Dead spell is often regarded as one of most underwhelming ultimates in the game. It raises up to six dead (friend or foe) to fight for you under the effect of invulnerability, but it's hard to find the perfect time to use it as the units raised are still just regular units with no extra buffs and no abilities. And they last only 40 seconds before expiring, which isn't a terribly long time given the battles in the game. If you have Death Pact (that's a big if), the spell has more utility as you can cast it on the animated dead for a potentially very efficient self-heal without killing the unit. The reanimated units do also make nice mana batteries for a Lich if you happen to have them as one of your heroes, so the spell isn't a total flop.
    • Speaking of which, Death Pact usually gets passed up in the early to mid game in favor of the Death Knight's other abilities: Unholy Aura gives your army movement speed and health regen (which Undead particularly appreciate as they don't regenerate health unless standing on Blight), while Death Coil is a powerful nuke and heal. Death Pact, on the other hand, allows the Death Knight to heal himself by killing an allied unit and spending a chunk of mana that could've easily gone toward the aforementioned Death Coil instead, which is not ideal for a low-mana support hero, and means sinking a skill point that could've been used to empower the other two more abilities, which actually let him support his army. Unlike the aforementioned Mana Shield, if the game goes on long enough for the Death Knight to reach Level 8-10 where Death Pact is available anyway, then it is at least a nice bonus emergency heal for some situations.
  • The Frost Armor spell for the Lich has the makings of one of those spells that the player will only place points into at Level 8. It places a shield around a target that adds a significant amount of armor and slows any melee attacker who strikes that target. However, the slow effect only works on melee attackers, the slow duration very short, and hero nuke spells will ignore the armor. It might seem like a good way to protect your Lich hero if attacked in melee but melee units getting close to your Lich usually indicates that a battle is going badly for you. Taking it early also means losing points in Frost Nova or Dark Ritual, two very good abilities that really complement one another; Frost Nova is a powerful Area of Effect nuke spell, while at max level, Dark Ritual lets you sacrifice a unit to restore mana equal to 100% of the unit's health essentially making your Skeleton Warriors low-cost mana potions. This provides very welcomed mana for more Frost Novas along with the usual mana potions. To the spell's credit, unlike a lot of examples where level 1 spells are too weak for late game, you could get away with putting just one point into the spell as Diminishing Returns for Balance means that the armor bonuses for level 2 and 3 Frost Armor don't have nearly as huge of a damage reduction, which may prove helpful against melee-centered heroes like the Blademaster and Demon Hunter (in fact, it's often a must-have against Orcs in 1v1 games since any Orc player worth their salt would grab a Blademaster as their first hero); just be aware that spending mana on Frost Armor will cut into your supply for nuking.
  • Over the hero's history, the Pit Lord has gotten this reputation for being a strength-based melee hero with a grab-bag of spells that seem to be a way to let this hero do a little bit of everything. They have Rain of Fire to deal a channeled Area of Effect like the Human Arch-Mage hero, but this has a weird synergy with the melee hero archetype who usually does their AoE in closer quarters without channeling. Their other two regular spells, Cleave and Howl of Terror let them do AoE in melee range and debuff enemies to lose up to 50% of their damage output, the later being an unusual spell as this is something that a caster unit like the Undead Necromancer might cast (indeed, the Necromancer's and Doom Guard's Cripple spell has this effect and more). Their ultimate ability, Doom, does have nice kick to it however, silencing and disabling most abilities on a target note , and dealing 40 damage per second to the target until they die and summon an aforementioned Doom Guard which has its own collection of powerful spells including its own copy of Rain of Fire, and the aforementioned Cripple spell which stacks with Howl of Terror, though these debuffs are vulnerable to dispels so they can't always be counted upon. The difficulty is reaching the point in the game where you can unlock Doom as the Pit Lord has to contend with his grab-bag of odd-job spells.
  • The Shamans' Bloodlust, Necromancers' Unholy Frenzy, and the Priest's Inner Fire look good on paper, able to respectively buff attack speed by 40% or 70% (but Unholy Frenzy also drains health from the target, so it's more risky as well) while Inner Fire increases a target's damage by 10% and armor by 5 points. However, these spells could prove overpowered if the player couldn't sufficiently counter them, so in The Frozen Throne, dispels became widely available for dealing with buff spam, easily nullifying the advantage of these spells and making them Awesome, but Impractical in a lot of cases. This is especially true against the Human Alliance as their Spell Breakers can steal these buffs and potentially debuff your army with Slow in one fell swoop at a very inopportune time. Bloodlust also requires Tier 3, Unholy Frenzy requires Necromancer Adept Training, and Inner Fire also requires Tier 3, giving the opponent the opportunity to bring out Anti-Magic units. Undead players can also transform their Obsidian Statues into Destroyers to use Devour Magic and then attack with buffed attack strength, making buff/debuff spam risky here too.
    • The Nightelf equivalent — the Druid of the Claw's Roar — actually manages to not be as badly affected by this trope as Roar is cast by Area of Effect so it may be reapplied very quickly to at least lure anti-magic specialists into burning out their mana.
  • The Blademaster's Mirror Image often falls under the category of spells that players never put points into until level 8. While the ability to perform a Doppelgänger Spin is cool, the illusions created deal no damage and can get in the way of your other melee units. As such, keen-eyed players will often have no trouble singling out the real Blademaster in a fight by simply ignoring the ones that deal no damage. Leveling Mirror Image also means neglecting his other skills, both of which increase his damage output (which is the primary reason to use a Blademaster to begin with), in favor of an unreliable tanking/escape skill.