Treantmonk’s Guide to Wizards, Being a god (5th edition)
Update: 2020: Guide updated by TomFinn to match videos
A note about style: First off should be my note about style, hopefully before all the players of other classes out there get all upset. Throughout this guide my tongue is planted squarely in my cheek, and yes, I can be a cheeky monkey. Also, this is by and large an opinion paper, so I will be expressing opinion regularly. I will be expressing it strongly, but yes, you are entitled to disagree.
If you do, by all means let me know in the comments and we can have a discussion if you desire. In the comments section you
will find me far less opinionated than you find the style of this guide.
This guide is written from the point of view of a wizard, but not just any wizard, a snobbish bookworm, "I am the greatest" wizard.
Treantmonk himself plays other classes too. Wizard is my favorite, but I really do…honest.
Find all my content in one place:
The “god” wizard: An introduction
I’ve told this story before, but here it is again. A player in a D&D group I belonged to invited me to join another group he ran with another group of friends. The group was playing a “killer” campaign and the party had been TPK’d and character individual deaths were rampant and he figured they could use another player. He told me to build an optimized character.
What he neglected to mention was that this group did not optimize their characters, so when I arrived with my Goliath charge-build, I overshadowed the rest of the fighter-types in the group entirely. Nevertheless, the party sorcerer died in one of the fights. I felt really bad and retired the character at the end of the session and promised to build something less dominating.
I had an idea how I could help the group without dominating the action, and I came back with a Wizard character. In the first combat, I was encouraged to use my fireball, and the group was quite confused when I told them that I didn’t have Fireball, lightning bolt or even magic missile. I still remember the DM asking me, “So what DO you do then?” When I explained I would be putting up walls, fogs, buffing, debuffing, etc. My character was declared “useless”
A couple months of playing and my character did not directly cause a single HP of damage to an enemy, nor did he use a single “save or die”. The campaign completed, and since my wizard was introduced, not a single character had died.
What I found really surprising is that everyone in the group still considered my character “useless”. Not a single player seemed to notice that my character had been introduced at the same time that the party death-toll had stopped. They had thought the campaign had become “easier” during the second half.
This was something I found absolutely terrific and I was inspired to write my first Wizard guide: Treantmonk’s Guide to Wizards, being a god (3.5).
What I find myself constantly explaining is that “being a god” doesn’t mean godlike power. I chose the name based on Greek Myths, where a god would get some hapless mortal to do their dirty work, merely interfering by magic to ensure that the hero always had the advantage. This is what a god wizard is, a wizard who lets the rest of the party have the glory, but subtly ensures through Battlefield Control, Buffing and Debuffing that the party always achieves victory.
I’ve since softened my view on blast spells, and I assure you my Wizards once again hurl fireballs and the like, but it’s not their primary focus. The primary focus in 5e remains the same as it did in editions past: Provide tactical advantage to the team.
And with that…on to the guide:
The Party Roles:
Anyone reading this who has not been playing D&D over the past thirty years may not know that there are some
fairly "official" party roles that date back to the original basic set. They are Fighter, Thief, Magic User and Cleric. The idea is that
the Cleric heals, the Fighter takes hits and does damage, the Thief opens locks, disarms traps and backstabs, and the Magic User
throws magic missiles and fireballs. These roles are every bit as outdated as Basic D&D itself, yet you still see players flocking to
"fill" these roles, thinking that this remains the most effective party, despite a game that resembles Basic D&D cosmetically only.
How many times have you gotten/sent an email when wondering what kind of character you could make, and a reply comes up with something like, "We have a Rogue, a Druid and a Sorcerer." The implication of course is, "Make a fighter-type", but in fact, the email is useless. Is the Rogue a melee rogue or an archery rogue? Is the Druid going to be engaging in melee? What kind of spells will the Sorcerer have? Maybe the best thing for this party is a Wizard, or another rogue…who knows?
Instead the email should say, "In combat we've got a Tank, a Striker and a Battlefield Controller, another Tank would be great. Out of combat we need a party face. How about some kind of Melee character with some social skills?" Characters are too flexible in D&D to define role by class. Instead the role should be defined by what they do.
The mechanics of the game changed enough in 3.0 that the optimal party changed with them, yet many players never realized that
the iconic party is no longer optimal, so we still see Wizards throwing blast spells, and Clerics running around healing, wondering why they can't heal as fast as the party seems to take damage.
The reality is that D&D isn't all combat, but combat plays a major role in pretty much every campaign. Therefore you can break
party roles into two major categories. The "out of combat" roles, and the "combat" roles. Let's look at how the God Wizard fits into
For a more in depth analysis of how wizards generally could fit into these roles, check out my YouTube video on the subject.
5 OUT OF COMBAT ROLES:
Social ("The Fop"): Can the wizard fill this role? Well if you specialize in enchantment kinds of spells, then you very well might be able to, but, you shouldn't. First, you aren't the best choice to fill this role, and secondly, this guy tends to think he's the leader, do you know what happens to the leader? He gets targeted first. Let the Paladin, Sorcerer or Bard take this role. Pretend you're jealous.
Sneak ("The Corpse"): Can the wizard fill this role? Well you may very well be good at stealth, and thieves tools is an easy proficiency to get, furthermore, you can emulate some of the requirements with spells, but, you shouldn't. The purpose of the Sneak is to scout out ahead in the enemy’s lair, look for traps and disarm them, scout out the enemy and report back, and do this all alone. Wonder why I call him "the Corpse"? Read what he does again.
Healbot ("The Gimp"): Can the wizard fill this role? Not really, but don't worry, you don't want it. The party Gimp gets to use up all his resources "servicing" the party between combats. Sound pleasant? That's why he's the gimp. In reality, this role is optional in 5e. WIth short rests and any number of healing abilities, you should get along fine without.
The Lump ("The lump"): I can't think of another name for him. He's the character of the player that made his character specifically for combat, and is really uninterested whenever he's not rolling his attack rolls. He makes the best use of his time when not in combat by snoozing, or reading a novel, or making it very clear to the DM that he's bored. You DEFINITELY don't want to be this guy.
Utility Caster ("Everything else"): The party transporter, the party Diviner. One way or another – this is the casters' role – in other words – this is you.
That's pretty much it. A party should look to cover all those bases (except the lump, but all too often it gets filled regardless, and often a single character can fill more than one (The party Bard may be the Fop, the Corpse and the Gimp…lucky guy), but let's be honest here, D&D is largely about combat, so even if you have a character that is the Fop, the Corpse, the Gimp and the Utility Caster, if you aren't contributing to combat, then you are a liability to your party, because when characters die, it's usually in combat.
The Four Combat Roles:
* Why isn't the Healer useful in combat? There are two ways you can live your "pretend" life – "reactively" or "proactively". The God Wizard will alter reality to prevent damage, a healer will try to do "damage control" (pun intended) after the damage has been taken. Simple truth: The mechanics of the game make preventing damage more efficient than healing damage after the fact. That's not to say a well placed "Healing Word” doesn’t have it’s place in combat, but preferably the Cleric is doing that in between laying the smack-down on the enemy.
In combat, the God wizard doesn't have one job, or two, he's got three…yippee! Remember these three jobs, and it will help you evaluate spells, pick spell preparation, and fulfill your combat role effectively. None of these jobs is to do damage to the enemy. In fact, a Wizard can be very effective and powerful without ever "killing" anything.
The God Wizards three jobs are: Control the Battlefield, Debuff the enemy, Buff your allies. Let's look at each separately.
In order to be an effective battlefield controller – you should consider your primary goal to line up your enemies flanked by your Glass Cannon and Big Stupid Fighter one at a time and backwards, all while standing on their heads. This will make the BSF and the GC win the combat with little damage to themselves – and they will feel like "they" won. That's the point – you're God after all, let the mortals have their victory.
The point of Battlefield Control is that you are ensuring your allies gain tactical advantage over your enemies. If you secure tactical advantage, and hold it, you will win. A simple wall spell can separate enemies so that they can be taken on one at a time. Some characters have difficulty with flying enemies or difficult terrain. Sometimes hampering vision can force an enemy to close the distance with your effective melee characters. The best thing about battlefield controls, is quite often they offer no saving throw, so luck ceases to be a factor, it's all about smart tactics and evaluating the situation correctly.
In order to be an effective Debuffer – you should consider your primary goal to have your BBEG standing in front of your GC and BSF restrained, incapacitated, or with their back turned running away frightened. This will make the BSF and the GC win the combat with little damage to themselves – and they will feel like "they" won. That's the point – you're God after all, let the mortals have their victory.
Buffing means making your allies more powerful. In order to be effective at buffing – you turn your Big Stupid Fighter and Glass Cannons into a Giant Stupid Fighter and a Glass Chain Gun. This will make the BSF and the GC win the combat with little damage to themselves – and they will feel like "they" won. That's the point – you're God after all, let the mortals have their victory.
The great thing about buffing is that when you buff, you NEVER need to worry about "to hit" rolls or saving throws. Your party members are all too glad to get that statistical advantage in combat, whether you are offering an extra attack, or resistance to a certain kind of damage. Buffing is also a great way to become very popular with the rest of the party, who act like kids on Christmas Morning when you start passing out buff spells.
So What Job is Best? It really depends on the circumstance. Personally, I think a "God" wizard should put the greatest emphasis on Battlefield Control spells. If you have the right battlefield control spell for the situation, you will win the combat every time. It doesn't win the combat on its own, but it creates a tactical advantage that shift the odds far enough in the favor of your allies that after that, they are assured of victory. Buffing is a good standby for when no Battlefield Control spell is appropriate, and you are concerned about resistances or immunities of your enemies. Debuffing is usually more significant than buffing at the same level, so if you think you can "stick" some debuffs to an enemy or a group of enemies, it is a great way to go.
Why to be glad that the "all powerful" Save or Die spells are gone:
Yes, Save or Die was powerful, we've all heard why (who cares how many HP the monster has? If they fail their save, the fight is over) – however, it was overrated. This is why:
Lots of enemies: You took down one and did little else to help your Big Stupid Fighter and Glass Cannon. You spent a high level spell doing so. Congratulations – you've been demoted from God to Glass Cannon. Ouch!
One Big Enemy: You either did nothing or everything. The Big Stupid Fighter and Glass Cannon were either in lots of trouble or were feeling useless.
The first point is that the consensus is that in 5e, Blast spells do great damage again, and I’m only half in agreement. Look at the all powerful Fireball. It does 8d6 damage (average damage 28). However, it doesn’t really does it? What about the saving throw? That, if successful, brings it down to 14. What about fire resistance or if one of those Oath of the Ancient Paladin are nearby? That brings it down to 7. Then of course there is evasion. I’m not saying Fireball is a bad spell, actually, if you look at my spell ratings you will see I consider it a good spell. I’m just saying that the idea that Wizards concentrating on blasts are going to do gobs of damage is overstated.
Then the second point is a tactical one. HP damage in D&D does NOT decrease your ability to fight. The big bad monster with 1 HP has just as deadly attack as the big bad monster with 100 hp. "Softening" up the enemy with a blast spell may or may not change the time it takes the rest of the party to drop the enemy, but it does nothing to ensure their safety during that time. Giving your allies a tactical or mechanical advantage prevents party deaths. Throw a blast when you have nothing better to do, but never throw one when you have one of your 3 jobs to do.
I'm not saying you should never do pure blast. I'm just saying that blasting is something you do after you've ensured tactical advantage in the combat. Blasting in combat should be….what comes after tertiary?
The Color Guide:
Blue: I love this option
Green: This is a good option overall
Purple: Middle of the Road – I could take or leave it
Orange: The option is poor or overly Circumstantial
Red: Red alert – This is a turkey
Brown: Crap is brown, this stuff is so rank, I couldn’t even rate it red
Ability Scores: As there are different methods to generate ability scores, I’m not going to get too specific with my recommendations. That said, here are my recommendations:
1)Pick your Race first. By picking your race, you can be more specific with your ability score planning.
2)Go for even numbers. There is no advantage to a 17 over a 16 ability score for example. The only odd number that could end up working nicely is Constitution, as you are likely to pick up the Resilient feat, which will boost you to an even number
3)Int is your most important ability score. Get a 16 if you can, or a 14 if playing a less optimal race.
4)Con is very important because it affects not only HP, but also your Con save, which is the save you make when making concentration rolls.
5)Dex is very important if playing a character in medium armor or less that uses stealth. Otherwise I would place it at moderate importance. This will improve your stealth score, your AC and your initiative (which is very important for Wizards). Note that if you are going to have medium armor proficiency, I would shoot for a 14 maximum.
6)Wis is of moderate importance, but you can dump it easy enough. It adds to perception (the most used skill in the game), and can be useful for a dip in Cleric
7)Charisma is a dump stat
8)Strength is a dump stat
My Aside: Intelligence for Wizards is not always as important as the primary stat for other characters. While a high intelligence is important for spell attack rolls (who cares) and saving throws (pretty useful), there are many spells that do not rely on intelligence at all: Sleep, Magic Missile, Fly, Improved Invisibility, Wall of Force, just to name a few. Now there is no way to make a Wizard that doesn’t rely on intelligence at all, so races that have an intelligence bonus are still the best option, but if you have a character concept like a Goliath Wizard, that Wizard will still be reasonably effective.
This list of recommendations however will only consist of races with Intelligence bonuses, and I have different recommendations for those who want to try to be a BSF, and for those who want to be God Wizards or Blasters.
BIG STUPID FIGHTER STYLE WIZARDS:
Obviously, if you want to be a Bladesinger, you have to have some Elf ancestry, so there are only two options I recommend:
High Elf – Bladesinger: This is your best choice for Bladesinger, you get +2 Dex, +1 Int, Perception skill, Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, Trance, bonus cantrip (Int Based), and weapon training with Longbows. This means you can be effective at range, as well as in melee with rapier proficiency from Bladesinger.
Half Elf – Bladesinger: To start off with, a +2 bonus to Charisma will be wasted a little, but you do get +1 to two other abilities, so you should be able to get a 16 in Int and 14 in Dex at least. You also get two free skills, I would recommend one be Perception, and you also get Darkvision and Fey Ancestry. Not as good as a High Elf, but not a bad option.
And then we have the Not Elves:
Deep Gnome – Abjurer: This option relies on an exploit with the combination of Arcane Ward and the racial feat Svirfneblin Magic. This feat gives you a number of spells, in particular Nondetection, which you can cast at will. This is a 3rd level Abjuration spell, which you can replenish your Arcane Ward for free. This is, most likely, not intended, but I would be neglectful not to mention it.
Githyanki – Abjurer or Warmage: No exploit here, just using the defensive abilities as intended. The Githyanki has medium armour proficiency, so you can boost your defense by wearing Half Plate. This combined with a Dex of 14 gives us a very strong armour class, and with the +2 Str and +1 Int we can probably get a 16 in each. You have the Shield spell, you have proficiency in greatswords, a good Str to use it, and you will also get some free psionics. Look forward to a free Misty Step once a day.
BLASTER OR GOD WIZARD (OR COMBINATION OF BOTH):
High Elf: The same things that made High Elf a great Bladesinger makes it a great Blaster or God Wizard. Just scroll back up.
The Good: All Gnomes get Darkvision, and advantage on Cha, Int and Wis saves vs Magic.
The Bad: 25ft speed isn’t great, but the big downside of Gnomes is their size. Small size means the spells Thunderstep and Dimension Door don’t work as well; you can only bring someone with you if they are your size or smaller. Its not the end of the world, but those are two of my favourite spells, and losing that option (assuming you have an average party of mostly medium creatures) sours me a bit on playing small Wizards.
Deep Gnome: The Deep Gnome gets +2 to Int, +1 to Con, 120ft Darkvision (No Sunlight Sensitivity!).
Forest Gnome: This Gnome gets +2 to Int, +1 to Dex, which I think is slightly better than Con, and the Minor Illusion Cantrip for free. You can also communicate with small beasts, a circumstantial but fun ability.
Rock Gnome: The third best Gnome. +2 to Int, +1 to Con, some interesting abilities, but overall worse than the Forest Gnome.
Variant Human (Almost Blue): Obviously, the draw here is the free feat at level 1. Most Wizards will have to wait till level 4, and then have to decide whether they want to boost their Int or take a feat; for a Variant Human, a +1 to two ability scores is enough (usually) to get at least a 16 in Int, and a 14 in Con and Dex. Humans don’t have the abilities of other races, but as a Wizard, most of these can be duplicated with spells. For your free feat, I recommend Warcaster, which makes a bigger difference at low levels than Resilient (Con).
Tieflings get a +2 to Cha, which is usually wasted on a Wizard. Some Tieflings don’t have a bonus to Int, we’re ignoring those.
Standard: These Tieflings some free spells, which unfortunately rely on Charisma. Not bad, not great.
Winged Tiefling: If your DM allows winged characters, then this is a great choice. You give up those free spells for the ability to fly without concentration: this is excellent defensively, offensively, and out of combat. You are duplicating a 3rd level spell, which requires concentration, for free.
Hobgoblin: +1 to Int, +2 to Con, which is right where you want them. They get Darkvision, and the ability Saving Face, which can help you make a saving throw. This is especially helpful to Wizards who want to keep concentrating on spells! You also get two martial proficiencies, which means you can pick up a heavy crossbow, which will deliver more damage at those lower levels than cantrips. You also become proficient with light armour, which does not provide as much defense as Mage Armour, but at low levels, its nice not to have to cast the spell. At higher levels, you might get magic studded leather, which could be even better than Mage Armour. Plus now you can cast Shield one more time. You can also think about getting the Moderately Armoured feat (once you pumped your Int up to 20 of course).
Yuan Ti: +1 to Int, good. +2 to Cha, meh. The Yuan Ti is worth considering however, because you get poison immunity, poison condition immunity, and advantage on saves vs spells and other magical effects. You also get some free spells, which are unfortunately based on Charisma.
Githyanki: In this role the +2 Str bonus is wasted unfortunately, but you still have +1 Int, and you can wear half plate, and you have extra spells.
In previous editions, multiclassing a wizard was a big no-no, but now it’s not nearly as taboo, and there can be some nice goodies involved. Still, multiclass too much and you lose access to those high level spells, which is a large draw for playing the Wizard in the first place. Here are some Multiclass combinations with a quick rundown of what you gain and lose.
Spellcasting progression continues unabated if you multiclass with another spellcasting class (except Warlock), however, in most cases, a higher level spell is just better than a lower level spell using a higher level spell slot. Read the multiclass rules and you will see that a Sorcerer 8/Wizard 9 is not selecting 9th level spells, even though they have the 9th level slot.
For a more in-depth analysis of how and when to multiclass, see my video on the topic.
First and foremost, there is nothing wrong with going straight Wizard. Straight wizard not only gets you the highest level spells, it gets you those spells faster. If your campaign continues past level 17, then read my Wizard/Sorcerer entry.
Cleric 1/Wizard X:
This is the multiclass option I would recommend most. There is a lot to be gained here for the delay of spell selection by one level (and delay of ability increases by one level too). Regardless of the cleric domain chosen, this multiclass option gets you medium armor and shield proficiency, access to the guidance cantrip, and some nice first level spells (Bless is a standout). For domain, I would first point out that if you plan to use stealth, medium armor is enough. Here’s the rundown of the domains I think are attractive:
Knowledge: Lovely option that can give you expertise in History and Arcana and two additional languages.
Light: Only useful if you can pull a decent wisdom (14 is enough). Then use the Warding Flare ability to create disadvantage on attacks against you twice/day. Also get access to Faerie Fire, a nice first level spell. (though the DC won’t be as good)
Any of the others: Useful for Heavy Armor proficiency, the abilities gained aren’t to my taste beyond that.
Fighter 2/Wizard X:
Painful to give up 2 levels of spellcasting, the gains are fairly significant, I’m torn on this one. You get heavy armor/shields, the “defense” fighting style for +1 AC more, and the “Action Surge” ability which allows you to cast twice in one round. Keep in mind that since the second spell isn’t a bonus action spell, you don’t have the “second spell must be a cantrip” restriction. Finally is the addition of Con save proficiency, which is the save you make to maintain concentration (and will save you taking the Resilient feat later on – plan your Con score appropriately). For a god wizard, this is probably still not nearly your best combination, but certainly tempting for other builds.
Sorcerer 3/Wizard X:
You are now significantly slowing down access to higher level spells. The draw here is access to Metamagic and the Draconic bloodline. You also slow down those ability increases significantly. If I was in a campaign where I knew I would reach level 20 (which is never for me), I would instead go Wizard X/Sorcerer 3, which is a great option.
Warlock 2/Wizard X:
I only include this here to explain that it’s a poor option. The “Warlock 2/Anything X” really works best if the “Anything” is a class that wants to focus on Charisma. Specifically Sorcerer, Bard or Paladin. With Wizard, you are stuck choosing between Charisma and Int at ability increase levels, and that’s a decision you don’t want to get stuck with. I keep getting suggested an exploit where you use the invocation that gives you unlimited Mage Armor to fuel the Arcane Ward of the Abjuration school. I would never allow such shenanigans at my table, but I’ll mention it regardless, so that it’s clear I’m aware of this loophole. (Yes, by RAW it’s legal)
I am going to order these best to worst full feats, then best to worst half feats, and I will only be talking about feats that I recommend, or that I often see being recommended for Wizards.
War Caster: Advantage on Constitution saves to maintain concentration and some other stuff. Sorry, the first item makes this a great choice all by its lonesome. The feat also lets you cast with your hands full and use spells against creatures that provoke an opportunity attack, which is less useful to most Wizards, but excellent for BSF Wizards who use a weapon and shield, and can now cast Booming Blade on creatures who are, mostly likely, moving and so will take the extra damage. Don’t forget that you could also cast any (one action) spell that targets only that creature, so you could cast Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, if it fits the situation.
This is one of the feats I would put ahead of adding +2 to Int. It is the choice for a Variant Human, and for every level 4 Wizard. If you’ve played your Wizard from level 1, you may be thinking that you need the Int boost more than help with concentration, because you haven’t needed to concentrate on many spells; this is a trap. Levels 4-8 you will be using your concentration a lot more, especially when you get 3rd level spells.
Lucky: Lucky is good on every character, it is really good in the same Warcaster is; it helps with concentration saves. It does run out, but not as fast as you think, because you can apply it after knowing whether or not you failed. I put Warcaster first because you don’t have to worry about running out of concentration, and you get the secondary effects too, but its worth noting that Lucky has versatility. You can use it on important concentration checks (if the battle is almost over, probably not worth it), and to stop critical hits rolled against me, because I am a squishy Wizard. Take this or Warcaster, not both unless you have feats to spare.
+2 Intelligence: I put this here to show that all the feats below this I think are less useful than getting your Int up to 20.
Alert: Get a +5 to initiative and you can’t be surprised and no enemies hidden from you don’t get advantage on their attack rolls. Everything here is full of win. Initiative is really great for Wizards, for battlefield control or to quickly cast Mirror Image for defense. I might consider taking this before getting my Int up to 20, it would depend on the spells I’m taking. However, we want to avoid the trap of taking Warcaster and then Alert, and now you have to wait until level 12 until you can raise your intelligence above 16, which is making our save DC too easy to reach. Going first and maintaining concentration aren’t important if all the enemies are making their saves. Strike a balance, and depending on your build, this may be better than Warcaster.
Tough: +2 hit points for every level. I think this is better than raising your Constitution, even though that would make your Con save better. This can catch you up to the HP of martial classes, or keep pace if they are also taking Tough. No matter what you do, you are going to get hit with an attack or a spell at some point, and Tough can keep you from being in the half of the party that were knocked out by a trap.
Only if you have extra: These feats work best at low levels. I also think these are worse than raising your Intelligence, which means that you probably wouldn’t be able to get them until you are higher level, which is when these aren’t so useful anyway. I have included these feats because there are campaigns where DMs give free feats at level 1, or free racial feats, or maybe you just really like the flavour of the feat. These are not in any particular order.
Wood Elf Magic: Now this is unlikely to be available to you, as Wood Elf is not the best race for a Wizard, but if you do want to play one, this feat is worth a look. You get a free cantrip (I recommend Guidance), Longstrider (Decent spell), and Pass Without Trace (Excellent addition). These spells are “based on Wisdom”, but a low wisdom doesn’t affect these spells at all. Not only can you cast Longstrider and Pass Without Trace once per day for free, they are also spells known, so you can add them to your spellbook. Unfortunate that Wood Elves get no bonus to Int, so taking this over raising your Intelligence will hurt.
Healer: Not a great feat at higher levels, but at lower levels it can be very useful to stabilize and restore hit points. This is good for Wizards who might be concentrating on a spell, and have nothing else to do other than throw cantrips.
Magic Initiate (Druid): This gives you two cantrips (I recommend Guidance and something that doesn’t rely on Wis), and a 1st level spell, and I recommend Goodberry. What you can do is cast Goodberry, and give the 10 berries to your familiar, who can use their action to deliver Goodberries to party members who have gone down. The rules do not specifically say you can use your action to give a Goodberry to someone else, just the precedent with healing potions, so talk to your DM, but Jeremy Crawford specifically said he would allow this in his games.
Circumstantial: These are feats I don’t think most Wizards should take, but may be necessary for specific builds.
Elemental Adept (Fire): Makes your blast spells moderately better (at least for one energy type, but if you choose anything but fire, have your head examined). This is really not a good option for Wizards. You can ignore resistance, which is good, but fire immunity is still relatively common, so the benefits are pretty mild even if you are a blaster. This is more useful for sorcerers, for Wizards you can just use a different spell.
Svirfneblin Magic: I do not recommend this unless you are taking advantage of the loophole with Nondetection and the Arcane Ward ability from being an Abjuration Wizard. If you are doing that, I recommend two things. Firstly, know your table. This is an exploit, and not every group are going to appreciate you taking advantage of it. Secondly, this is only in the Elemental Evil Players Companion, it may not be allowed in your campaign anyway.
These are bad: I mention these feats because I’ve seen them recommended, and I personally do not recommend.
Crossbow Expert: Now that Sage Advice has clarified that Crossbow Expert can be used to attack with a spell in melee without disadvantage, predictably, some insisted that this has “now become a go-to feat for every caster that worries about finding themselves in melee”. My advice here is that if you find yourself in melee, most of your spells require no attack roll. Many cantrips do, but I’m not taking a feat to improve cantrips, they’re not that good for Wizards. If your worried, take Toll of the Dead, Acid Splash, Poison Spray. No need for a feat.
Defensive Duelist: If you have a dagger in your off hand, you can use your reaction to add your proficiency bonus (most likely +2 or +3) to your AC for that attack. This competes directly with the Shield spell, which adds +5 to your AC until the start of your next turn. Which is better. Granted it uses a spell slot, but it protects you from multiple attacks in a round, and if you aren’t being attacked multiple times, you probably have the spell slots available to cast shield anyway. If you really really like this, you think its awesome, you need it… be a War Mage with Arcane Deflection as your second level ability for free. Don’t use up a feat slot.
Spell Sniper (All of them): I heard a podcast on Orc Labs where they drooled over this and called it a “must” for any spellcaster. I wish they had explained why. You double the range of attack spells that require an attack roll, those same spells ignore half and three quarters cover, and get another blast cantrip.
First off, the double range is not nearly as good as it sounds. Most of your spells aren’t attack spells, but of those that are, many don’t have attack rolls, but those that do are usually around 120’ range or so, and really, most combats fall within that range. The feat also allows you to ignore ? and ? cover, but your spells that don’t require an attack roll (which is most of your spells) ignore that cover too. Getting an attack cantrip from another spell list is pretty lame considering it’s going to be based on a dump stat rather than Int.
That said, Orc Labs is a great site. Check it out if you haven’t already.
These give you a +1 to an ability score (hopefully bringing it up to an even number) and something else. Most of these feats I am rating as orange, and I want to clarify that orange does not mean I do not recommend them, it is just that they are circumstantial. In the right circumstance, I absolutely recommend them.
Resilient: SO good! Raise your Con score by 1 and get proficiency on Con saves. Con saves are what you make to avoid losing concentration. This is a feat I will almost always take as a Wizard, but usually at higher levels. I’m going to get my Int up to 20 before taking this feat almost every time.
Moderately Armoured: We need to have light armour proficiency from some source, and this raises Str or Dex, which aren’t what we want. But if you have a Hobgoblin, then being able to wear half plate and a shield gives us such a huge bonus to our AC, that it might even be worth our 4th level feat. After all, the best way to keep concentration is not to get hit in the first place. If you are not a Hobgoblin, you probably can’t get this. Unless you are a Bladesinger, in which case, remember you bladesong requires not using medium armour or shields…
Fey Teleportation: If you are a High Elf with an odd Int, then this is better than raising your Int by 2, because not only do you bring your Intelligence bonus up, you also get the Misty Step spell for free. That’s once per day you get to use it at no cost, and it becomes a spell known so you can use your normal spell slots for it as well (you still need to prepare it).
Flames of Phlegethos: As with Fey Teleportation, if you are a Tiefling with an odd Int, then this increase you bonus as well as giving you some bonuses for casting fire based spells, such as Fireball. You get to reroll 1s (once per spell) and if something attacks you in melee it takes 1d4 fire damage. Not amazing, but there is no point in raising you Int to another odd number, just raise it to an evn number and get these minor benefits.
Keen Mind or Observant: If you are not a High Elf or Tiefling, then if you have an odd intelligence score these two feats will give you a +1 to Int as well as some minor bonuses, so worth looking at. Keen Mind means you know which way is north, what time it is, and gives you perfect recall, so you never have to take notes again (usefulness slightly depends on your DM). Observant allows you to read lips (cool but doesn’t come up a lot), increases your passive investigation (I have never been asked for this) and your passive perception (this comes up all the time).
Do we really need me to go over backgrounds? Take whatever you like, they all give you pretty similar amounts of things.
I will say that it’s useful to pick up Perception proficiency. Perception is the most used skill in the game by far. An easy way to get it is to simply choose a Background that would give you a skill proficiency you already have (through Wizard or your starting race), then you can switch it to anything you like. What you like is Perception.
Because of the way Arcane Traditions work in 5e, it doesn’t really matter what kind of spells you intend to cast most often when choosing your Arcane Tradition school. All of the core traditions provide at least an advantage in scribing the spells of your chosen school, but in reality, the cost and time required to scribe a spell of a different school is still pretty reasonable, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Some Traditions offer other benefits for casting spells of the chosen school, take these for what they are worth.
X Savant: Every Core School has this ability, it’s OK, but I would scribe pretty much any spell I found regardless of school anyways. Any School without this gets something else, and that something else is better.
My Final Analysis of the Schools: For a more in depth analysis of the schools and what style of Wizard I would play with them, check out my video on the subject. If you are curious about my initial thoughts on the Graviturgy and Chronurgy Wizards from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, you can check out this other video.
School of Abjuration:
Arcane Ward: Extra HP are always nice, especially when they don’t require healing when lost. This ability really does push you towards casting Abjuration spells. Twice your Wizard level + your Int modifier isn’t insignificant either, considering how often you will likely cast Shield and Counterspell, this will really add up! Also, if your Ward is damaged and you aren’t, then you get to keep concentration with no save! This is a top tier ability. I should mention however, that there are remarkably few Abjurations over level 1, that means this Ward is not that easy to recharge. You can however cast Alarm as a ritual, which replenishes it for free but takes time.
Projected Ward: Now you can share your Arcane Ward, I guess that’s probably a good thing. It will drain the Ward much faster though, and they have to be within 30ft of you, and it uses your reaction, which is extra cost. You may be able to save the Cleric’s concentration though, so use, with caution, when appropriate.
Improved Abjuration: If you don’t already have both Counterspell and Dispel Magic, I would definitely get both after gaining this improvement, as they both just got a boost. Still circumstantial, but a good ability.
Spell Resistance: Advantage on saving throws against spells and resistance against the damage of spells. Pretty self-explanatory.
School of Conjuration:
Minor Conjuration: This will depend on your DM, in particular what they think counts as an object. You can probably use it to create a mirror, or curtain, which you can duck down and hide behind. If someone attacks it, it will shatter, but unlike minor illusion they can’t attack through it. Can you create poison? Maybe not, but how about a poisonous plant or root? Can you create material components for spells, like a diamond for the Cleric’s raise dead spell? I probably wouldn’t allow a player to use this to make expensive items, but if you need a bit of fleece, or bat guano, why not. Or you can use it to make manacles for a prisoner, or a spyglass to see an approaching army.
Benign Transposition: When you are restrained by the big bad barbarian, poof! Now the big bad barbarian is restraining the Big Stupid Fighter, and that BSF is mad! This is teleportation, and it’s easy to recharge. Very nice! You can even use Misty step to get next to an enemy mage, then Benign Transposition with the fighter who couldn’t get close. Works even if the ability isn’t charged. Only downside is that this ability uses your action, which limits the rest of your round to bonus action and movement.
Focused Conjuration: Your Concentration cannot be interrupted on conjuration spells by taking damage. Friggin’ awesome! Particularly good for Conjure Elemental, which can have dire consequences if your concentration was broken.
Durable Summons: Summoned creatures get extra HP. This is pretty lackluster, especially since our most of our summon spells only summon one creature. A druid would love this.
School of Divination:
Portent (Super super Blue): This has some striking similarities to the Luck feat, and it is a very nice ability. Keeping good rolls handy for concentration saves is the most obvious use to me. Terrible rolls are good too, because you can give them to an enemy who is attacking you, or for a saving throw for that spell you are hoping to land. Rolls of 20 might be useful to give to an ally who has some nice crit-potential. Lots of uses no matter what you roll.
I’ve recently had a chance to play a Diviner wizard, and here’s the thing about Portent: It’s fun. Hypnotic Gaze, Focused Conjuration, Transmuter’s stone, these abilities are effective, but turning the enemy saving throw into guaranteed fail at the last moment gives great joy.
Expert Divination: Sounds better than it is. If you cast Divination spell, you can get back a spell slot that is at least one level lower, and is at most 5th level. You have to have already used that slot; you don’t get anything if your lower level slots are still there. Unfortunately, there are not many Divination spells, and if you have cast one, you probably do not need to cast another. Rary’s Telepathic bond is great, but we can cast it as a ritual. Arcane Eye is really useful, but it lasts a long time so I can probably map out the whole dungeon, and not need to cast it again. This ability is still good, but not great.
The Third Eye: A nice little buff, though nothing that can’t be achieved by a Divination Wizard with a spell. I would probably chose See Invisibility, which is circumstantial, but in that circumstance, you need it.
Greater Portent: I heard you like Portent, so I put Portent in your Portent. 50% extra Portent.
School of Enchantment:
Hypnotic Gaze: If you walk up to within 5ft of an enemy and use an action on this, they have to make a Wisdom saving throw or they will be charmed, incapacitated and their speed is reduced to zero. This will last as long as you want, they do not get any more saving throws, all you have to do is use your action to maintain the effect every round. This doesn’t use concentration, it is not a spell, and you can do it as many times as you want, as long as you are targeting a new creature. At lower levels, this effect is better than a lot of spells, and at higher levels, this gives you something to do while concentrating on a spell.
Instinctive Charm: Make an opponent who is attacking you attack someone else instead. This uses a reaction, and requires another suitable target, finally there is a saving throw. A great way to make those Shield spells last longer, and as long as you are using it on new targets, it never runs out.
Split Enchantment: This is like the Sorcerer “Twin” spell metamagic, except you get it for free on all enchantments. A lot of spells that I don’t usually like are now great. You can use a Tasha’s Hideous laughter and then Hypnotic Gaze, incapacitate 3 foes, and you have only used a 1st level slot. I also now want to use Hold Monster or Otto’s Irresistible Dance, when I normally would never take.
Alter Memories: Having a creature forget it was charmed is certainly valuable for an Enchanter if you like the Charm spells. Somewhat circumstantial though.
School of Evocation:
Sculpt Spells: Remove the sting out of AoE spells that would include an ally (Evocation only naturally). This makes blaster style Wizards actually good, as now you can blat with impunity. By RAW, you can not exclude yourself from damage (which is pretty weird if you ask me), but you can move before you cast, so its not as big a deal as you think.
Potent Cantrip: If you use a damaging cantrip and the target makes their save, they take half damage instead of nothing. Cantrips do scale, but not well enough for this to make much of a difference, and at this level we have enough actual spells so that we won’t usually be casting them anyway. It does mean you won’t feel like you wasted your turn, and one possible use is to force an enemy spellcaster make concentration checks, whether or not they save.
Empowered Evocation: Obviously the biggest bang for your buck is on the most minor spells (like Cantrips). In particular, Frostbite gets the benefit of this and Potent Cantrip. In the end, this isn’t going to make a huge difference, but it’s OK. To players thinking about magic missile plus this ability, this IS NOW SETTLED: Errata
Overchannel: Maximum damage with a 5th level or lower spell. That’s fantastic! You get one use per long rest, and if you use it more than that you take (significant) damage. Unless it is a dire emergency I wouldn’t want to use it more than once.
School of Illusion:
Improved Minor Illusion: Get a free Cantrip and add sound to Minor Illusion. I must admit, I’m not seeing a whole lot of value from that addition, but it’s certainly not bad.
Malleable Illusions (Maybe blue or maybe orange, depending on your DM): Change an existing illusion. Again, I’m not immediately seeing a lot of practical value from that ability except that I should point out that we are turning Minor Illusion into a spell that both can move/change shape and provide sound. That’s a pretty notable boost for a cantrip that is already (IMO) the best cantrip in the game. One thing to be aware of is this does not change the range of the spell, so we cannot move the spell very far. What if you are on a moving cart, or a ship? Or you cast it on a ring, does it move with the ring? There is no clear answer, which is why the rating depends on your DM. Discuss out of session, for your friends sake.
Edit: Redditor “Gnomish Might” provided insight into how this power could interact effectively with Mirage Arcane. You begin by covering a large area you will be adventuring in, then use Mirage Arcane to create illusionary structures/etc from the original spell. Mirage arcane does not provide a saving throw nor is it negated with interaction, making this combination quite effective. Be aware that the spell will only effect areas you can see when you cast it, so you cannot cast on a dungeon and expect it to affect anything past a door.
Edit 2: Redditor “Redditname01” points out that the Creation spell is illusion, so you can use Malleable Illusions to change a real object (he suggests a piece of string) you created with the Creation spell into a 5’ block of metal for example – all without using a spell slot. This is obviously very useful – so useful I’m changing my rating of this ability to green. Thanks Redditname01! I have your new Reddit Name: Awesome.
Illusory Self: Get out of one attack automatically for free per SHORT rest. If you think you will be take more than one attack in this round, a Shield spell is probably better.
Illusory Reality: So suddenly illusion is the ultimate Battlefield control. Make a silent Image of a stone wall, then, using a bonus action, POOF! Your first level spell is wall of stone for 1 minute with no concentration to maintain. Holy crap!
(There has been some suggestion that Illusory Reality was even MORE powerful by allowing you to make something real once per round, not once per spell. The clarification is found here good thing!)
School of Necromancy:
Grim Harvest: This isn’t giving temporary HP, it’s only healing you (which is pointless unless you are wounded). You also have to be killing creatures (preferably with your Necromancy spells.) Good luck with that. Better ability for blaster style wizards than a god wizard.
Undead Thralls: Gives you a free known spell and makes your Animate Dead a bit better. Good ability overall.
Inured to Undeath: A pretty circumstantial resistance.
Command Undead: One clear bonus to this ability I notice right away is that unlike Animate Dead, the undead you control with this ability does not need reasserted each day. You can control a maximum of one creature at a time with this, and unfortunately, more powerful undead tend to have a higher intelligence, and if they have an intelligence of 8 or higher, they get advantage on the saving throw. If they have 12 or higher, they can repeat the saving throw every hour. That makes it unfortunately unlikely that you will be able to control it, and how many powerful undead are you seeing anyway?
School of Transmutation:
Minor Alchemy: Temporarily change one substance into another. Really not seeing a lot of value in this.
Transmuter’s stone: A very solid buff you can keep (YES) or give to someone else (GOD NO). It can provide PROFICIENCY in CON saving throws, and some other lesser, but OK things. (Maybe you could give it to the Cleric using Spirit Guardians. If they’ve been nice to you.)
Shapechanger: You get to add Polymorph to your spellbook for free- wait, you took Polymorph at level 7 like every Wizard? Never mind then. You do also get to cast Polymorph, on yourself, once per short rest, into a CR1 or lower challenge rating creature. This is not Wild Shape, you do not keep your mental ability scores. So this is only utility, and even then it is limited by the intelligence of the creature you turn into. If you turn into a fly and scout out a dungeon, how much of that dungeon would a fly remember? Or even understand in a way that is useful to you.
Master Transmuter: You can destroy your Transmuter’s Stone and do one of four things. You can change the material of something, but not in a particularly useful way. You can reduce the apparent age of someone, not their actual age, which can be replicated by a Disguise Self spell, or Hat of Disguise. You can use it gain the ability to cast Raise Dead, but you still need the material component, and an hour to do so. Maybe useful if you party doesn’t have a Cleric, or Druid. And finally, the only use that I think is good, Panacea. You remove all curses, diseases, and poisons from a creature you touch AND it regains all of its hit points. This is better than Heal, no matter how high you upcast it. Its almost as good as Power Word Heal, a 9th level spell.
The Bladesinger is restricted to Elves and Half Elves, which is fine since both make good Wizards.
Training in War and Song (2nd): Proficiency in Light Armour, which is okay. At low levels, Mage Armour is generally better, so you will probably want to use that, but eventually you might get +2 or +3 magic studded leather, which will surpass it. You also get proficiency is one melee weapon, probably a rapier as you are most likely going to be a Dexterity build. Oh, and proficiency in the performance skill. Not particularly useful, but could be fun.
Bladesong (2nd): Twice per short rest, use a bonus action to activate Bladesong. You probably will have more encounters than that per short rest, so you wont have this every time, so bear that in mind. It lasts 1 minute, or until you are incapacitated, and gives you a variety of benefits. You add your Intelligence to your AC; with an Int of 16, a Dex of 14, and a Mage Armour spell, that gives you an AC of 18. That’s as good as full plate armour. You get an extra 10ft of movement, a nice bonus for maneuvering. You have advantage on (Dex) Acrobatics checks, which is circumstantial but will be nice when it comes up. And finally, whenever you make a concentration save, you add you Int to the saving throw. That is fantastic, especially when you are going into melee and are going to get hit more often.
Extra Attack (6th): Is it better to attack twice or use a Booming Blade or Greenflame blade? Depends on your weapon. If you have a non-magical rapier, then most of the time Booming Blade is better, assuming you can trigger that secondary damage once in a while. If your weapon is better, than attacking twice will be more effective, unless you are sure the secondary damage will be triggered. Note that as an Elf, you are proficient with longbows, which you can use this with. However you cannot use Bladesong while using a bow, but it is nice to have a ranged option, especially is we’ve run out of Bladesong.
Song of Defense (10th): If you take damage, as a reaction you can expend a spell slot to reduce the damage by 5 times the spell level. As a Wizard, you hate giving up spell slots, but you can use this to avoid concentration saves or reduce the difficulty of them. Once in a while, that’s a worthwhile sacrifice.
Song of Victory (14th): Add your Intelligence to the damage of your melee weapons while using Bladesong. This is the first bonus to damage you get, and its nice, but by 14th level we have access to 7th level spells and we have a lot of slots. Are we going to be poking things with a rapier? Probably not, we’re more likely to be casting spells. If we are concentrating on a spell, we may want to start poking, and this makes our attacks do a little more. It wont be our primary focus, but it is a nice addition to our secondary focus.
War Magic School:
Arcane Deflection (2nd): If you are hit by an attack or fail a saving throw, use your reaction get a +2 AC or +4 to saving throw. The AC bonus is pretty lame considering Shield, and it only applies to one attack, but you can apply this after knowing whether or not an enemy hits you. The saving throw bonus however can turn a failed concentration check into a success, and that is huge, from level 2 to level 20. If you use this, you can’t cast anything but cantrips until your next turn. Not a big deal if we are already concentrating on a spell. Hey wait, this works for all saving throws! Do you want to succeed your saving throws? Hint: yes.
Tactical Wit (2nd): Int bonus to initiative. This is going to be the premiere ability of this subclass. If you want, you can even stack the Alert feat with this.
Power Surge (6th): A lot of talk about power surges, how they are calculated, how many you can store, how to get more. This is sounding very interesting. Once per turn when you deal damage to a creature with a spell, you can spend one power surge to deal extra damage…equal to half your wizard level. Not amazing, but it does improve blast spells.
Durable Magic (10th): +2 to AC and Saves when you are concentrating on a spell. That’s really good. +2 to all saves? Sign me up now.
Deflecting Shroud (14th): Here’s your capstone. When you use Arcane deflection, you can do damage to up to 3 creatures within 60’…equal to half your wizard level. Shwang, wang, wang.
So ends part 1 of the Wizard guide, find part 2 HERE.