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art2-343.txt  Last edited 2006-05-04 for NetHack 3.4.3
Magicbane and artifact selection strategy in NetHack 3.4
Compiled for 3.2.2 by Kevin Hugo.
Updated for 3.4.3 by Dylan O'Donnell <>.

[Adapted from a spoiler courtesy of David Grabiner.]

Magicbane has several special effects when wielded that make this
artifact a very useful item.  It resists 95% of curses thrown at you,
gives magic resistance, and can engrave without dulling.  As a weapon,
it may (depending on the monster's magic resistance saving throw) add
additional damage and magical effects.

                                        +STUN  +CANCL  +ST+CN
  ~~~~~~~  ~~~~~~  ~~~~~  ~~~~   ~~~~~  ~~~~~  ~~~~~~  ~~~~~~  ~~~~~~~
  Damage    2d4     3d4    4d4    4d4    5d4     5d4     6d4      --
  Ave dmg   5.0     7.5   10.0    10.0   12.5    12.5    15.0     --
    +0      60%     1.8%  18.2%   0.9%   9.1%    0.9%    9.1%    7.66
    +1      60%     3.6%  16.4%   1.8%   8.2%    1.8%    8.2%    8.57
    +2      60%     5.5%  14.5%   2.7%   7.3%    2.7%    7.3%    9.48
    +3      60%    10.9%  19.1%   1.8%   3.2%    1.8%    3.2%   10.01
    +4      60%    13.6%  16.4%   2.3%   2.7%    2.3%    2.7%   10.92
    +5      60%    16.4%  13.6%   2.7%   2.3%    2.7%    2.3%   11.83
    +6      60%    22.3%  12.7%   3.2%   1.8%      0%      0%   12.49
    +7      60%    25.5%   9.5%   3.6%   1.4%      0%      0%   13.40
    +8      60%    28.6%   6.4%   4.1%   0.9%      0%      0%   14.31
    +9      60%    36.4%   3.6%     0%     0%      0%      0%   15.09
   more     60%      40%     0%     0%     0%      0%      0%    6.00+bonus

The above table describes the chance that each of the magical attacks
will occur, assuming that the monster fails the magic resistance
saving throw it gets to reduce their probability.  The ENCHANTment of
Magicbane affects these probabilities; note that higher enchantments
reduce the likelihood of the better attacks. (Negative enchantments
have the same probabilities as at +0.)  Even the NORMAL, non-magical
damage that occurs 60% of the time has an extra d4 damage above that
of a normal athame unless the monster resists.  If any magical attacks
occur, additional d4s of damage are added; at most one of the
individual attacks may cause a magical effect as detailed below.

The PROBE attack usually does nothing special beyond adding the d4 for
the magical attack; if no other effect has occurred, there is a 1 in
(3 * (absolute value of enchantment)) chance that the probe is
insightful, giving the effect of a wand of probing. A probe is always
insightful if Magicbane is at +0.
  "The magic-absorbing blade probes <monster>!"
  "The magic-absorbing blade prods <monster>!" (hallucinating)

The STUN attack causes an additional d4 damage; if none of the later
effects have occurred and been successful, it stuns the monster (or
you, for 3 (more) turns, if you are being attacked by Magicbane).
  "The magic-absorbing blade stuns <monster>!"
  "The magic-absorbing blade amazes <monster>!" (hallucinating)

The SCARE attack causes an additional d4 damage; if not combined with
a CANCEL attack, causes the monster to flee for 3 (more) turns; the
monster has a 50% chance of being given an opportunity to resist this
effect. If you are being attacked by Magicbane and aren't
magic-resistant, this effect paralyses you for 3 (more) turns.
  "The magic-absorbing blade scares <monster>!"
  "The magic-absorbing blade tickles <monster>!" (hallucinating)

Finally, the CANCEL attack causes another additional d4 damage and has
the same effect as a spell of cancellation (but with a fixed level of
10 for resistance saving throw purposes). If the monster has the
ability to cast spells, the effect adds one to your current and
maximum spell energy. The monster may resist. If you are hit with
Magicbane and you don't have magic-resistance, you are cancelled and
lose one current and maximum spell energy.
  "The magic-absorbing blade cancels <monster>!"
  "The magic-absorbing blade purges <monster>!"

In addition, any magical attack has a 1 in 12 chance of confusing the

The AVE DMG column in the table above summarizes the expected average
damage for each enchantment level; it includes bonuses due to
enchantment but not to weapon skills (athames are in the dagger
class). (Again, note that a monster with a high base magic resistance
saving throw may reduce the severity of the attacks that occur, as
well as averting the potential magical effects; the quoted figures are
for monsters with 0 MR.)  The Damage row lists the amount of damage
each type of attack causes; the average of each attack type is given
in the Ave dmg row.

For those source divers who are interested in how the above values were
obtained, the following table may help:
    Enchant      +0   +1   +2   +3   +4   +5   +6   +7   +8   +9   more
    * Probes/11   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11
    * Stuns/11   10    9    8    7    6    5    4    3    2    1    0
    Scare roll    4    4    4    2    2    2    1    1    1    0    0
    Cancel roll   2    2    2    1    1    1    0    0    0    0    0
    Die roll 1   Can  Can  Can  Can  Can  Can  Sca  Sca  Sca   *    *
    Die roll 2   Can  Can  Can  Sca  Sca  Sca   *    *    *    *    *
    Die roll 3   Sca  Sca  Sca   *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
    Die roll 4   Sca  Sca  Sca   *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
    Roll 5-8      *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
    Roll 9-20    ----------- Normal, non-magical damage -------------

What is the best enchantment for Magicbane?  If you simply want to cause
the most damage, then the table indicates that you should enchant it as
high as possible (safely to +7).  Fortunately, your odds of magic-
resistance, curse-resistance, and engraving do not depend upon the
enchantment.  However, if you want to maximize the best magical attacks
of this artifact, it should be enchanted to +2.  Note that the only
difference in the magical attacks between the +0 and the +2 Magicbane is
a 3.7% change between probing and stunning.

Magicbane is generally not the best weapon for combat, although
medium-level characters with good dagger skill and poor skills in other
weapon may find it their best choice.  Higher-level characters may want
to wield it as their regular weapon to absorb curses while they are
travelling through the dungeon, switching to something else to fight
powerful monsters.

Which artifact should I choose?
[Adapted from a spoiler courtesy of David Grabiner.]

If you get an early wish and decide to use it for a weapon, or if you
have accumulated several artifact weapons, which weapon you should wield
depends highly on your class because of the class limits on weapon

ARTIFACT weapons that are worth keeping are listed in the table below.
Some artifacts are not listed, because they are only effective against
a small subset of monsters.  The SKILL category of each artifact is
listed, as well as the maximum skill level for each class (ABCH KMPRaRo
STVW): - means restricted to unskilled, b means basic skill, s means
skilled, and E means expert.  Note that if you receive an artifact as a
gift by crowning or sacrificing, any restriction on its weapon class will
be removed and you will be able to advance to basic skill.

The table also indicates the damage range of each artifact against
typical SMALL creatures, LARGE creatures, and major DEMONs.  The damage
calculations assume that the artifact is enchanted as shown, you have
expert skill, and that the artifact's special attacks apply to the
monster; the Longbow of Diana assumes that you are using normal +0
arrows fired at a rate of up to 4 a round (expert Ranger). Damage
against major demons further assumes that the weapon is blessed and that
the demon hates silver, is fire-resistant, and is drain-resistant.
Finally, the table summarizes the average damage against major demons
(DAVE), which are often the nastiest creatures in the dungeon. 
Magicbane's actual damage is slightly greater due to its special
attacks, but it doesn't make a difference here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  ~~~~~~~~~~~~  ~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~  ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~
+2 Magicbane    (MB)  Dagger        bbbs b--E E  bEEE   6-12  6-11  7-15 11.0
+7 Staff Aesculapius  Quarterstaff  sbEE -bEb -  bbbE  19-36 19-36 12-19 15.5
+7 Stormbringer (SB)  Broadsword    -s-- s--- s  sbs-  13-27 13-26 12-20 16.0
+7 Grimtooth          Dagger        bbbs b--E E  bEEE  11-18 11-18 12-22 17.0
+7 Sunsword           Long sword    -s-- E--- s  EbE-  10-17 10-21 11-25 18.0
+7 Fire Brand         Long sword    -s-- E--- s  EbE-  18-32 18-40 11-25 18.0
+7 Vorpal Blade       Long sword    -s-- E--- s  EbE-  11-18 11-22 12-26 19.0
+7 Longbow Diana      Bow           -bs- b-bE -  Eb--   1-32  1-32  2-48 19.9
+7 Snickersnee        Long sword    -s-- E--- s  EbE-  11-27 11-29 12-33 22.5
+7 Excalibur    (EX)  Long sword    -s-- E--- s  EbE-  11-27 11-31 12-35 23.5
+7 Cleaver            Axe           -Es- s--s -  -bEs  12-27 13-29 14-33 23.5
+7 Sceptre of Might   Mace          -sEb s-E- s  -b-b  20-30 18-28 20-32 26.0
+7 Mjollnir     (MJ)  Hammer        -Es- b-Eb b  -bE-  12-38 11-37 12-41 26.5
+7 Tsurugi Muramasa   Two-hand swd  -E-- s--- b  EbE-  11-32 13-37 14-41 27.5
+7 Demonbane          Long sword    -s-- E--- s  EbE-  10-17 10-21 20-44 32.0
+7 Frost Brand  (FB)  Long sword    -s-- E--- s  EbE-  18-32 18-40 20-44 32.0
+7 Grayswandir  (GS)  Saber         Eb-b s--- s  bsb-  18-32 18-32 20-56 38.5

Six artifacts are particularly good all-purpose weapons and will be
considered further.  

* Magicbane (MB) has several magical effects (see section above) that
  make it a good weapon even though it doesn't cause much damage
  (particularly if you are limiting its enchantment to +2 to maximise
  its special attacks). Magicbane is also good if you don't have
  magic resistance or are short of ways to remove curses.
* Stormbringer (SB) permanently drains levels from monsters --
  although some species are resistant, including major demons -- and
  will attack tame or peaceful creatures without confirmation, so it's
  bad if you're trying to keep a pet.
* Excalibur (EX) is easy to get if you are lawful (dip a long sword in
  a fountain), has automatic searching, and is a somewhat effective
* Mjollnir (MJ) causes lightning damage, and when thrown by a Valkyrie
  with strength 25, will usually return to your hand. Being a hammer,
  it is good for classes who are restricted from blades. However, it
  may destroy useful wands and rings carried by monsters.
* Frost Brand (FB) causes cold damage, which makes it an excellent
  all-around weapon. However, it may freeze useful potions carried by
  monsters. Although Fire Brand similarly causes fire damage, most
  major demons are fire-resistant.
* Grayswandir (GS) doubles most of its damage (working best when fully
  enchanted) and causes silver damage. Even though Grayswandir causes
  the most damage to major demons, Frost Brand is slightly better
  against ordinary large monsters.

The table below compares these six artifacts for each character CLASS.
The EARLY GAME recommendation assumes that you will quickly reach maximum
skill in the weapon and that the weapon is enchanted to +2, which
might be expected from wishing or limited enchantment.  The LATE GAME
recommendation assumes that you are maximally skilled and that the weapon
is enchanted as in the above table.  If a weapon is listed with a slash,
this means that several are comparable and the choice may depend on other
factors.  An artifact is listed in parentheses if its skill starts as
restricted; you will usually want to obtain it or a weapon of its class
as a divine gift in order to unrestrict the skill before using it.

The weapons listed include any weapon which could reasonably be the best
for that class, as well as weapons which may be obtained without a wish
and which are close in quality:

* Excalibur is a good weapon early in the game for lawful characters,
  because it does almost as much damage as Frost Brand and can be
  obtained without a wish; its lack of double damage makes it inferior
  later, as Frost Brand's damage and strength bonuses will be doubled.
* The Staff of Aesculapius and the Tsurugi of Muramasa, Quest
  Artifacts for Healers and Samurai, are powerful weapons; they have
  the disadvantage of requiring two hands, but both do more damage
  early in the game than any other available weapon.  The Tsurugi
  becomes inferior late in the game, because its damage bonus is not
  doubled; the Staff is at a disadvantage in Gehennom because it will
  lose its double damage against level-drain-resistant demons.
* The Longbow of Diana, Quest Artifact for Rangers, is a highly useful
  back-up weapon for fighting at a distance, but has the disadvantage
  of extremely variable damage depending on the vagaries of multiple
  shots, and the fact that the supply of arrows is unenchanted.

    ~~~~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  ~~~~~~~~~
     Arc   -   -   E   b   -   -   GS              GS
     Bar   s   s   b   b   E   s   MJ              FB
     Cav   -   -   -   b   s   -   MJ/(FB)/(EX)    (FB)/(GS)/MJ
     Hea   -   -   b   s   -   -   SoA/MB/(MJ)/GS  SoA/(FB)/GS
     Kni   E   E   s   b   b   s   FB/MJ/EX        FB
     Mon   -   -   -   -   -   -   None            None
     Pri   -   -   -   -   E   -   MJ/(FB)/(EX)    (FB)/MJ/(GS)
     Ran   -   -   -   E   b   -   MB/LoD          MJ
     Rog   s   s   s   E   b   s   MJ/SB/MB        FB/GS
     Sam   E   E   b   b   -   s   ToM/FB/EX       FB
     Tou   b   b   s   E   b   b   MJ/MB           GS/FB
     Val   E   E   b   E   E   s   MJ/EX           FB/MJ
     Wiz   -   -   -   E   -   -   MB              (FB)/(GS)

It's interesting that Magicbane does so well early in the game; this is
a side effect of the weapon skills.  Even for those classes which don't
have it listed, it's a good artifact to wish for because it serves other
useful purposes (magic resistance, engraving, and curse resistance).
It's a useful weapon to keep as your main weapon after you have killed
the Wizard; you can switch to Frost Brand when a lot of nasties appear,
because Magicbane takes a long time to kill them, and powerful creatures
will resist Magicbane's special attacks.

Thanks again to David Grabiner.
Corrections and clarifications provided by Joe Bednorz, Steven Bush,
Andreas Dorn, Kate Nepveu, Mike Ruskai, Darshan Shaligram, and
Boudewijn Waijers.

This page is based on a spoiler by Dylan O'Donnell. The original license is:

Redistribution, copying, and editing of these spoilers, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

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