Magic wands in pathfinder have long been an adventurer’s best friend. In the previous edition the trusty wand of cure light wounds was practically indispensable for keeping adventuring parties alive and healthy. Second edition does things a little different. First look at how they used to work and then cover why I like wands more now than ever.
In First Edition Pathfinder wands were crafted to hold various spell types and levels but they carried a specific number of charges. A charge would be expended after the spell was cast until all charges were used. When all the charges were used on the wand, it functionally became a fancy stick that could be recharged if you had the ability to craft the wand in the first place. Some wands of highly situational spells could last a party a whole campaign. Other wands could be used up after several very tough encounters. Wands essentially were expendable spell batteries where healing wands and damage wands became the most coveted for combat heavy games. This meant that wands functionally reduced the weight of combat by making the most dramatic magic more readily available to adventurers. With a wand of cure moderate wounds and third level magic missile, parties felt indestructible, and often were.
A well-prepared cleric and wizard duo could keep a party driving deep into enemy territory, flush with HP and cranking out damage across back to back encounters. There is a place for that style of play but if your GM never provided access to those resources you could not replicate it. Then if you had too many resources your team did not develop the team tactics necessary for high level play where spell resistance became common and the terrors of the vile masterminds of evil stripped away as many protections as possible. Worst of all wand gave players a false sense of strength that lures in the adventuring party too deep into strongholds. Surrounded by powerful minions and no method of escape the now wandless party cannot recharge their resources and maybe looking at a total party wipe.
Encounters became tuned to this type of expected play but the rules as written did not emphasis resource management and left players to figure out the details. Why should it? The rules help you build characters and teach you how they interact, but not what is numerically the most resource efficient build.
Wands in second edition take a different tact. While they do cast a specific spell of a certain level the use is once per day. You can attempt to overcharge a wand in dire straits, but the wands can break or be destroyed. An over charge is a second or potential third use. This means every wand picked up by the party becomes a long-term useful item while not enticing them to stretch too far beyond their core build’s means. The use of magic items like a wand core to the multi-classing archetypes for the spell casters. The dedication feats allow access to magic traditions used by the items and while the dedications do not boast robust spell castings, a host of wands essentially expands your spell slots.
My favorite specialty wand is the Wand of Manifold Missiles. This wand initially acts like a wand of magic missiles but then each round after for the next 10 rounds the want shoots out another bout of missiles. Put one in each hand and you can run around the battlefield for a minute blasting away your foes with bolts of force. Even with a single wand you create a consistent stream of damage while using your free hand to cast more spells. The highest level version of this wand, at a price of 15,000 gold will pump out 4 1d4+1 bolts of damage to targets you direct as long as you can target them. That is a range of 8-20 additional damage across 10 rounds. Shut up and take my gold please and thank you.