When you first play Warframe, you play a tutorial quest in which you pick one of three starter characters. The default option is to pick Excalibur, the sword-using guy, who is a nice all-rounder character, sort of like your standard knight in an RPG. The next option is Volt, a lightning-chucking speedster who obviously works like some sort of mage character. And then there’s Mag. Mag is your third choice.
Originally, the third choice was Loki. Loki looks and works like a thief or rogue. He fits well but was removed because he’s hard to use, needs to be maxed out and use rare mods to make the most of his abilities and dies to a stiff breeze when not invisible. Mag… she doesn’t fit so well. She’s just as much a mage as Volt is, but more niche. Volt is a rather niche character himself (excelling at fast paced missions like Capture rather than long defensive missions) so the fact that Mag is even more niche than Volt is pretty worrying. Another way you could look at the starters is the tank/support/damage sort of thing, but that doesn’t work either – Excalibur does a lot of damage while being tankier than Volt and Mag, and while Volt does have support abilities, Mag doesn’t really even seem to do much damage either.
Apparently Mag used to be really powerful on Corpus missions only. Mag’s main damage type is Magnetic, a combination of Cold and Electricity. Warframe’s elements are weird. Magnetic damage is great when it comes to Corpus, since they all have shields, and old Mag used to be able to destroy Corpus with ease. She was still mediocre in Grineer and Infested missions, since neither of them really have shielded enemies, but she was good.
Then Mag got a rework. And everyone hates it.
Everyone apart from me.
Because I don’t understand how Mag works.
Seriously, I’ve leveled her from 0 to 30 and I have no idea. I have Mag Prime now, complete with one of the ugliest helmets in the game and I’m leveling her up and I still have no idea.
Alright, I admit that I know how her 4th ability, Crush, works. It’s like a shitty version of Frost’s Avalanche with just as long a casting animation. In fact, Mag’s casting animations are so bad that she got a buff to them recently, to cut them in half. But even then, Natural Talent (which reduces casting animations further) is often a required mod on her.
I also kinda know how her first ability works too. Pull basically just grabs enemies in front of you and pulls them towards you, slinging them on the ground. Except half the time they land in front of you or slightly behind you, half the time they land anywhere BUT in front of you. It’s pretty random and a tad awkward to use. If Mag was a melee-oriented character, it would be a good ability, but Mag is flimsy and prefers if enemies stayed far away as to not kill her. And just like Crush, it’s got an awkward casting animation.
But then we have her middling abilities, Magnetize and Polarize. The in-game descriptions make zero sense, suggesting that Magnetize does damage over time and sucks in bullets. But whenever you use it, you can’t really SEE what’s going on. Enemies need to be within 4m of the center of the magnetic field in order to be sucked in and if the enemy you use Magnetize on is killed, then you get a nice little explosion afterwards. Players can shoot into a magnetic field in order to increase the damage that Magnetize does, but… why not shoot the enemies.
Polarize seems even more strange. It’s supposed to be a wave of energy which does damage to shields and armour, mainly shields, and if an enemy’s shield is drained completely, it causes a small explosion. But only Corpus enemies really have shields and Polarize only deals damage to armour if their shields have already been depleted. Polarize also apparently heals allied shields and creates shards from stripped shields and armour, which can be sucked up by Magnetize to do more damage.
Again though, you might as well just shoot enemies. Polarize is best used to remove armour, but there are other characters and weapons who do that far more efficiently.
On paper, Mag’s abilities all sound kinda cool, but the problem is that they don’t seem to scale well at all. They’ll get you through the star chart, any character will, but Mag struggles even with that. Luckily though, many characters can get along just fine, even in sorties, assuming you have a half-decent gun and can aim. Mag is no exception to that. When you’re just starting though, with both mediocre weapons and mediocre abilities, it’s not so much fun. At the end of the day, just pick Excalibur or Volt, both of whom do okay, even with no mods installed.
Really, the best thing about Mag is the fact that she has a built-in Vacuum ability – her passive enables her to suck up mods and loot whenever she bullet jumps. Which means you’re free to use a Kubrow or a Kavat for a change, rather than your standard Vacuum-using Sentinel.