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"It's always the staff."—Buffy, "Get It Done".
A sub-trope of Weapon of Choice.
The Simple Staff is quite the versatile melee weapon and coincidentally happens to resemble a really big Magic Wand, so it's no surprise that Wizards and Witches who want to add that extra kick to their spells, or who decide they're tired of being a Squishy Wizard and want to increase their melee deadliness and upgrade to Kung Fu Wizard, often pick up a Magic Staff.
A Magic Staff is a Magic Wand which is large and substantial enough to be a viable melee weapon. In that sense, it is a Magic Wand first and a melee-weapon second. The magical Simple Staff version is probably the most common and most deadly in physical combat, but canes, clubs and mace-like rods are also viable versions of a Magic Staff, should their shapes be taken advantage of. Sometimes the staff itself is magic, though other times it's just a Magic Focus Object with little inherent ability of its own. Often a Magic Staff acts as a weapon to be used when a character's Black Magic is exhausted or otherwise not working. For a Magic Staff which is often used in melee combat or Full-Contact Magic, the staff is usually much more modestly-sized and decorated than the staff of a mage that isn't taking advantage of the Magic Staff's melee-abilities.
While almost no carrier of this weapon will hesitate to wield their Magic Staff as best they can in physical combat should the need arise, for some the point isn't a Magic Staff's melee attributes but that a Magic Staff is a Magic Wand but better. They are generally considered more powerful than their Fun Size version, the traditional Magic Wand, and can be elaborate to the point of Awesome but Impractical. It's not uncommon to see staves with huge gems, floating rings and just plain unlikely hugeness, and since Bigger Is Better, and Cooler Is Also Better a large, decorative staff is usually the sign of a powerful mage.
Wizards of all kinds are known for carrying Magic Staves, which often go hand in hand with Robe and Wizard Hat. In fact, sometimes the Magic Staff functions almost purely as Stock Costume Traits for magic-users. The Magic Staff is also the signature weapon of the White Magician Girl.
- Sailor Pluto from Sailor Moon wields the stylish Garnet Rod which looks much like a key fitting her role as the Guardian of the Door of Space-Time. The staff is in turn topped by the Garnet Orb, a magical object in itself and one of 3 Magical Talismans that create the holy grail or Awaken Sailor Saturn depending on the Media.
- Nami's Clima Tact from One Piece is Magic From Technology, but functions within the story like a Magic Staff. Sort of interesting in that it started out life as a regular Bo staff, and Usopp built her what would become her weapon specifically to do parlor tricks and "attacks".
- Slaynn, a powerful wizard from Record of Lodoss War, utilizes a simple hooked wooden staff.
- Rezo, the Affably Evil priest from Slayers, often used to note his arrival courtesy of jingling noises.
- Mage characters in .hack//Sign use magic staves, including Tsukasa, Helba, and BT.
- Negi Springfield in Mahou Sensei Negima caries a staff most of the time when doing magic. It serves as a focus for his spells and he also uses it to fly in a manner resembling a Flying Broomstick, but never uses it as a Simple Staff. Also, as the story progresses and his skills in magic increase, he tends to use the staff less and less: The magic ring Eva gave him is less cumbersome, and he grows to rely less on that as well.
- Elie eventually picks one up in Rave Master.
- Staves in the world of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha primarily serve as Magic From Technology Wizard Wands, and they're Swiss Army Weapons that usually become BFGs, BFSes or both.
- Gandalf, Saruman and other wizards wield these in Lord of the Rings. Notably, Gandalf sometimes dual wielded it with a glowing elven longsword, Glamdring, because he's that much of a Badass.
- In Discworld, the staff is the preferred tool of wizards, and a major plot point in Equal Rites and Sourcery. In Soul Music, Archancellor Ridcully recommends a staff because even if you run out of magic, you've still got six foot of solid bog-oak at your disposal. Works nine times out of ten.
- The Knights of the Word in Terry Brook's Word and Void books use a Magic Staff as their primary weapon.
- In The Dresden Files:
- The main character wields both a staff and a blasting rod, as foci for his magic. Harry's blasting rod and his staff have different functions. The staff allows him to use magic more subtly, enabling him to have a much finer control over wind or telekinesis magic. The blasting rod, on the other hand, does Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Harry uses it to control his power and unleash extremely powerful evocations in tightly focused beams - although in a few cases, he ends up using such magic without needing the rod.
- Staves appear elsewhere in the books as well; Luccio and Ramirez favor much shorter staves, usually under five feet in length, while the Merlin himself goes for a tall, polished white staff. Also, Eldest Gruff uses a staff, though more for walking. Its not universal however, as Elaine Mallory uses an enchanted chain, as it can be hidden more effectively. She also makes fun of the old-fashionedness and phallicness of staffs/wands. She has a thorn wand, lariat, and enchanted chain. Ebenezar McCoy uses a staff very similar to Harry's normally, but when he needs to really kick ass, he breaks out the Blackstaff, which is described as a wooden staff covered in pure darkness, and is capable of killing hundreds of men instantly by simply extinguishing their vital functions.
- Harry likes his staff not just for the versatility, but because it has several enchanted functions (it's very hard) that allow him to bend prison bars, among other things. It's also handy for thwacking people. A security guard requires him to check it once for that reason. It's also handy when you want to motorcycle-joust against a limo. Yes, that happened. Yes, it was awesome.
- Something of note is that most of a focus's power relies on the belief of the wizard using them, although some of them are spelled. Elaine's chain is an interesting example because it also plugs into wall sockets to build up charge.
- Justified to some extent in the Her Majesty's Wizard series by Christopher Stasheff. Wands in that series (and staves, to some extent) serve as magical "antennas", focusing a mage's spells and making them directional. Spells will still work without using a wand, or stave, but the effect is both weaker and far more easily able to be picked up by other wizards/sorcerers. Kinda the difference between using a regular radio versus one with a dish antenna. As spells in this universe are cast through poetry, this can make for some interesting duels. "He's going for the extra point!/Throw his kneecap out of joint!", etc...
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Prospero made all his children magical staffs.
- The staff is the preferred weapon of several magicians in The Kane Chronicles.
- In the Circle of Magic universe, every Trader carries a six foot staff capped at both ends with engraved brass caps. Daja uses hers as a weapon, a walking stick and a magic wand, as needed.
However, once she becomes an outcast Trader, she's not allowed to have engraved caps or carvings along the staff showing her life story (until she gets re-adopted by the caravan in Daja's Book). And in Cold Fire, when she gets mage-students of her own, there's an amusing exchange when they ask when they get to have cool staffs and if they can bling them out with jewels and ribbons, whereupon Daja points out that outside of plays they've probably never seen another mage who carries a staff, as they have no magical properties; she just uses hers for magic because she carries it anyway.
- In The Bible, God tells Moses to raise his staff (or tells Moses to tell his brother Aaron to raise his staff) to cause the ten plagues on Egypt. Then, when the Israelites are fleeing Pharaoh's army, God tells Moses to raise his staff to divide the sea so they can cross safely on dry land.
Soon after, in a battle with the Amalekites, the Isrealites would trounce their foes as long as Moses held his staff high. They started losing when his arm got weak and droopy, so some folks got a rock for him to sit on, while his brother and another fellow helped him hold the staff up the rest of the day.
- Laenan Kite of the Mirror Duet books (Catherine Webb) uses a staff, partly to store power but mainly because it's big and heavy and good for hitting people with.
- In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, all wizards carry staves which automatically absorb magic from the environment, in order to power their spells. The effect causes an allergic reaction in magical creatures such as dragons, and is harmful to extremely magical areas such as the Enchanted Forest. Wizards store their spells in their staves, so although they are nigh-indestructible, hiding one will seriously inconvenience its wizard, though he will always find it eventually. The fact that their powers rely on magical theft is one of the things that make wizards Always Chaotic Evil in the books.
Live Action TV
- Merlin, from Merlin kept the staff used by the Sidhe man in season one, and has used it again on a couple of occasions. He keeps it hidden under a floorboard.
- Magic: The Gathering has a variety of equippable magic staves like Thornbite Staff in addition to its many, many staff-wielding sorcerers, which include Blinding Mage, Selesnya Guildmage, Glintwing Invoker, and too many others to list.
- Many spellcasters in Yu-Gi-Oh! are staff-users, including the iconic Dark Magician.
- Dungeons and Dragons has had a plethora of magical staffs. Here are just a few of them:
- Staff of Power and Staff of the Magi. Famous not for their potent magical abilities, but for the Retributive Strike power: when deliberately broken, the staff exploded like a bomb, almost certainly killing all nearby opponents. The wielder had a 50% chance of traveling to another plane and a 50% chance of being annihilated.
- Staff of Command. Exceptionally good at Mind Controling opponents.
- Staff of the Serpent. Changes into a snake to attack your enemies. Comes in python (constriction) and adder (poisonous bite) versions.
- Staff of Striking. When you want to administer a personal beat down.
- Staff of Withering. Can cause the victim to age ten years and suffer a withered limb (arm/leg).
- Catstaff. Gives a variety of powers that help thieves, such as climbing walls, moving silently and hiding in shadows.
- Demon Staff. Allows the wielder to summon a minor demon or change themselves into one.
- Staff of the Elements. Its powers depend on which type of elemental is trapped inside of it. For example, a fire elemental would allow fire-related powers.
- In 4th edition, magic staves can be used both as weapons and as a means of empowering magic attacks, if you happen to belong to one of the few classes that allows it. Also, some wizards can get defense bonuses for using one, possibly by spinning it if you choose to think of it that way.
- GURPS features an enchantment spell called Staff, which can be used to turn a staff into a magic device which lets a wizard cast spells through it (so, for instance, touching them with the staff counts as touching the target directly). Since GURPS magic has very limited range, this is rather useful.
- Staves are the standard magical weapons in Runescape, increasing magical attack power and providing ammunition for elemental spells. A few spells can only be cast while wielding the appropriate staff.
- Spellcasters in Shining Force, both Black Mages and White Mages, wield staves as their Weapon of Choice.
- While Fire Emblem does have staves (which are mostly used for healing), magic books serve as the game's version of Magic Wand.
- More often than not, the various Mage classes in the Final Fantasy games can equip rods and staves. It's the traditional weaponry of magic-using jobs in the Final Fantasy games. The games that have weaponry dependent on the character will generally also give this to characters with high magic stats. For example:
- In both Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics a 2 (which are much more closely related than most of the Ivalice Alliance games), we get not only poles, but also staves and rods, which are even more suited for magic-wielding characters since they boost magical power.
- In Final Fantasy XII, at least, rods' attack damage are calculated from a character's magic power as well as their strength.
- Both Sayuri Kurata and Kano Kirishima use a magic wand or staff in the 2D fighting game Eternal Fighter Zero. Sayuri's wand is more of a Magical Girl type wand, with transforming powers. Kano's is modeled after the staffs used in fantasy role-playing games, fitting alongside her various tiers of elemental magic and her unique MP gauge.
- In the Rune Factory series, the player can purchase staffs and wands that significantly amplify magic power (particularly offensive spells like Fireball).
- Phantasy Star Online has Rods, Canes(staves), and Wands available to Forces. Rods are basic, canes have longer reach, and Wands give a bonus to your Magic stats.
- In Heroes of Might and Magic II and III the liches use staves. In II and III the Magi also use staves, which kind of fits, as liches are undead wizards.
- The RPG games had Staff as a weapon skill from VI onward. In VI, it was simply one of the few weapon skills available to the Sorceror. In VII and VIII, it was also the weapon skill the Sorceror (VII)/Necromancer (VIII) could get best at.
- Quest for Glory lets Wizard characters obtain a magic staff in games 3 through 5. In 3 and 4 it's only somewhat useful (no mana consumption while active, but moving at all de-summons it), but it received a major overhaul in 5 (where it has its own regenerating mana supply and can be used until it runs out and needs a recharge, greatly extending the player's mana) and became useful.
- Despite having a huge cast of magic-users, pretty much the only Touhou character that uses a staff is Mima, and she disappeared after the Continuity Reboot. Although that... thing Flandre has may also count.
- In Dungeons and Dragons Online, one-handed scepters generally fulfill this role, commonly being enchanted with spell enhancements. It's quite normal to see wizards and sorcerers (and perhaps the occasional cleric or favored soul) dual-wield scepters, dooming their physical damage potential to minuscule levels, but providing substantial bonuses for magic.
- Diablo loves these. The first game had elaborate staves with some of them even having blades on either end. Almost all of them had some powerful spells, and high melee damage. The second game, had simpler staves that provided bonuses to sorceress' skills. They also had high melee damage, but are not likely to be used in an actual fight.
- Staves in World of Warcraft tend to be caster weapons, and are generally not used to melee but merely as stat boosters. Melee-oriented staves tend to be druid weapons, and again druids don't fight with their weapons, but their claws. However, there are a few rare staves designed for warriors and other melee classes.
- Dragon Age II turns combat with a Mage's Staff into an veritable art-form of destruction, as in addition to the spells they rapidly fling across the battlefield from both ends of the staff, the Mages seem to now favour Wushu-esque moves that rapidly spin and twirl the staff around their whole bodies. A common finishing move is to slam the Staff on the ground that sends the spell across the ground towards their enemy. It should also be noted that in close-quarter melee, the Mage also now has huge blades attached to the base of their Staff to slam into their opponents.
- In Dungeons of Dredmor, the Staff Mastery skill tree gives bonuses to magic and mana regeneration when wielding staves (in addition to the bonuses in bashing monsters on the head).
- In all versions of The World, the centerpiece of .hack//, staves are standard equipment for Wavemasters and Harvest Clerics.