Ride the Lightning! A Rapid-Fire Rift Mage Build! by StePK
Alright, listen up, because it's time to show you the Mage Master Race's best setup. Arcane Warriors will cry out "But Jedi!" But Jedi? But nothing! You may have a lightsaber, but we have the force.
Quite literally, actually. The Rift Mage is very reminiscent of DA2's Force Mage, except with an added focus on neutering your enemies into feeble little nugs while you toss them around like ragdolls.
So, you ask, what makes a Rapid Rifter rage all over the battlefield? Not giving a single fuck and tossing spells like an epileptic grenadier! That's right, the Rapid Rifter can mix it up on the front lines just like a Jedi, or fire away from the back end of things. In fact, the pre-specialization build works well enough on its own for pre-Skyhold asskickery.
Let's check out the pre-Skyhold skills first. Fade Step+, Chain Lightning, Stormbringer, Gathering Storm, Immolate, Flashpoint, and Clean Burn. If you have extra points, you can also invest in Energy Barrage or Lightning Bolt. I prefer Energy Barrage because of it's utility against single high-HP enemies and lower cost and cooldown.
Fade Step is one of the most important spells for this setup. It lets you jump all over the battlefield every 12 seconds or less, whooshing your way in and out of combat. Upgrade it to give you a 300% Ice attack as you whoosh through enemies. This is the lone Winter spell you need, trust me. It has 0 mana cost (super important) and a 12 second cooldown, and will be your main way of handling anything weak to Ice. Since you can spam it whenever it's active, spam it whenever it's active. Whenever it isn't, you should either be casting a spell or moving out of danger. If you're far enough away, feel free to fire away with your staff, but this build is meant to maximize spellcasting.
Next, the Storm skills. Chain Lightning is a crowd-pleaser and a crowd-disperser with 250% Lightning damage that jumps between targets for only 50 Mana and 8 second cooldown. If there are a bunch of Wraiths or other buggers sitting around, send a little lightning their way. This gets even better once you get the glorious power of the world-ending Rift Mage and can create clusters to fuck instead of waiting for them to happen naturally. This is also your go-to spell for ruining the day of anything weak to lightning (which is few and far between). Grabbing Arcing Surge isn't really necessary early on, though once you're set on everything else it's definitely worth a point. Stormbringer is a free 300% lightning hit every 15 seconds, what more could you want. Gathering Storm is where the Storm tree really shines, though- every basic staff attack you do shortens your spells' cooldown times by half a second. For a machine-gun-mage, that's really important. Nonessentials in the Storm tree are Lightning Bolt which I find too costly and slow for its effect, and Energy Barrage which is nice to wear down the last buff bugger in the pack. Either way, they both give way to Rift Mage talents (read: Stonefist) once that tree opens up.
And Inferno skills, ooh boy. Immolate is a wonderful thing, it really is. 300% Fire damage for only 35 mana means this is a cheap and relatively quick blast of hellfire on anything you can fit in that glyph every 16 seconds. Use it on tightly-packed groups. Use it on things weak to fire (read: a whole hell of a lot). Use it when you don't want to wait to regenerate the 15 extra mana for Chain Lightning. The upgrade, Wildfire, shortens the cooldown to 12 seconds, but isn't as important as Rift Mage talents, so leave it until after you've mastered breaking the sky. Next, we have Flashpoint. Every time you crit, your next spellcast has no cooldown. Watch for the little star on the right of your screen to tell you when this is active, and then target the biggest threat and hit him twice as hard as you can. Usually this means double Immolate, but it can mean double Fade Step or double Chain Lightning. While it's not great to rely on, it's a great treat to discover you can whoosh through a tightly packed group twice and get out of melee range at the same time. Finally, we have Clean Burn, which is to spellcasting what Gathering Storm is to standard attacks. Clean Burn shortens cooldowns by 1 second every time you cast a spell. Pre-Rift Mage, that's not a HUGE deal, since you still need mana.
That's 8 basic skills to grab pre-Specialization, and that also means you have 3 of the 4 elemental types at your fingertips. Yeah, you can't cast Barrier (unless you tech it in) but that's what your second mage is for (preferably Solas- Rift Mage Master Race!). They're support- you're the bunny who just did a line of coke. The playstyle is simple- Immolate packed groups, Chain Lightning spread groups. Fade Step through any melee that comes close. If Flashpoint comes up, twin Fade Step in and out of combat unless you have enough mana to flip a double Immolate/Lightning. On higher difficulties, save Fade Step for escaping things or hitting hard on Ice weaknesses, unless Flashpoint comes up and you can freely pop in and out. Remember, using Fade Step is free and lowers the cooldown on your other spells.
Now, let's get in to what makes this build really bring down the house. And the sky. And pretty much anyone that looks at you funny.
Necessary Rift Mage Talents: All of them, except maybe Firestorm, prioritizing Stonefist+ and Restorative Veil. Restorative Veil is what makes this build work. 10% of the damage you deal to Weakened enemies is restored as mana. Your mana. The biggest problem you've had until this point was not having mana, no? In a flash, it's solved. What's more, Stonefist (the main attack from Rift Mages) is a 500% Spirit attack, giving you access to all 4 elemental types. Upgrade Stonefist for the Weakening effect, then grab Restorative Veil, then get Pull of the Abyss and its upgrade, and finish up the tree.
Once you have Stonefist and Restorative, lead off with Stonefist into a group, then blast them. It really hardly matters what order you use, since your mana will skyrocket and your cooldowns will plummet. Once you have Pull of the Abyss (and its upgrade), lead with that to group up enemies to better rock their world. Veilstrike is good for a cheap Weaken and spellcast to lower cooldowns if you need it, but it's not as important as the other two. Remember to Fade Step all over the goddamn place for damage, not dying, and all those other neat things it does.
Unlocks should go vaguely in the order of Inferno Skills, Fade Step+, Storm Skills, then Rift Mage. Remember, Rift Mage is not the base for this, but the glue; if you respec at Skyhold, get the base 8 skills before starting up the Rift Mage tree. Equipment for the Rift Rager isn't really unique. Get your mage stats high, critting is good, Constitution is nice for not dying if you run into something and don't kill it right away... But that pretty much goes for anything.
Now, swoosh forth, find something to kill and kick it's shit in. The elements are yours to command!