DnD 5e - The Wizard Handbook
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own.
Temporary Note: Xanathar's Guide to Everything was recently released, and I finally picked up a copy. I'm working on analyzing Xanathar's content, but I got distracted by publishing Mosntrouc Races on DM's Guild. Check back very soon, and keep an eye on my Recent Changes log to see what I'm working on.
The Wizard is the iconic arcane spellcaster, capable of doing all manner of fantastic tricks, and generally limited only by their spellbook. A Wizard with a comprehensive spellbook can do essentially anything in the game, often as well as or better than a non-magical character who is built to do that thing. A Wizard with Invisibility is as stealthy as a Rogue. A Wizard with a summoned pet can replace a fighter (at least temporarily). A clever Wizard could even find a way to heal his allies and replace a Cleric.
Because Wizards can do so much so well, their roles are numerous and varied. However, in a typical party the Wizard's primary functions are as a Blaster, Striker, and Utility Caster.
Wizard Class Features
Hit Points: d6 hit points is the lowest in the game. Fortunately Intelligence is the only ability which Wizards strictly need, so you can afford a decent Constitution score.
Saves: Intelligence saves are very rare, and proficiency in Wisdom saves won't help much if your Wisdom is terrible.
Proficiencies: Wizard's weapons are pitiful, but can be easily replaced by cantrips. Unfortunately Wizards only get two skills.
Spellcasting: Wizards are the king of spellcasters. They can do everything; kill stuff, charm stuff, solve problems, gather information, travel, whatever. If you can imagine doing it with magic, a Wizard can do it. Except healing. They can't really do that.
Arcane Recovery: This provides a bit of sustainability to the Wizard which was missing in previous editions. Wizards were the biggest cause of the "five minute day", in which the Wizard would burn their biggest spells in the first encounter, then would be essentially useless unless the party immediately took a long rest. Arcane Recovery gives you the ability to recover your biggest spell slot (or several smaller ones), allowing you to continue at least through the first short rest without issue.
Arcane Tradition: See "Subclasses - Arcane Traditions", below.
Spell Mastery: Your first thought might be to pick up something to replace your cantrips as a go-to damage solution, but your cantrips hit 4dx damage a a level ago, which means they will outstrip nearly all first and second spells in terms of single-target damage. Your best bets for damage are Burning Hands (if you need a spammable AOE) and Scorching Ray, but even scorching ray only beats cantrips by an average of 3 damage. Instead, look for utility spells which are helpful to spam like Invisibility, Mirror Image, or a save-or-suck spell like Tasha's Hideous Laughter.
Signature Spell: Cool, but not nearly as important as Spell Mastery. The free castings are nice, but the biggest draw is the two extra spells prepared per day, which dramatically improves your versatility.
Subclasses - Arcane Traditions
I'm going to skip the "X Savant" abilities because they're all identical.
- BladesingingSCAG: The Bladesinger
is a fun concept, falling a lot closer to a normal Wizard than an Eldritch Knight
does, and allowing you to get into melee combat while still using the full Wizard
spell list. Unfortunately, you're plagued by MAD (you now need three ability scores
to be even remotely functional), and have to survive in melee with d6 hit points,
and your AC only remains viable as long as you can keep Bladesong running.
- Training in War Song: Light armor on a Wizard is a nice boost to AC. Mage Armor works great, but it eats one of your precious prepared spell slots for the day. You get free proficiency with a one-handed melee weapon (Rapier is your best bet) and Performance.
- Bladesong: The bonus to AC, combined with light armor and a decent Dexterity bonus will allow you to match or even exceed the AC of a Fighter. You get two uses per short rest, so you can reasonably expect to use this up to 6 times in a day. The duration is only a minute, so beware of long, drawn-out fights.
- Extra Attack: With exceptionally rare exception, you will do more damage by using a cantrip like Green-Flame Blase.
- Song of Defence: This is a great way to survive your d6 hit points, but
- Song of Victory: A bit late to the game, but by now you should easily have 20 Intelligence, so 5 bonus damage is pretty nice.
- School of AbjurationPHB: I'm really
surprised by Abjuration. In previous editions abjuration was an after-thought
for Wizards. You took a couple of protective spells like Resist Energy to
handle frequent niusances, but I don't know anyone who ever played a real
Abjurer (Abjurant Champion doesn't count, 3.5 enthusiasts). School of Abjuration
provides a really fantastic Ward mechanic, and really lends to the idea that
the Wizard's magic is focus on defending himself and his allies.
- Arcane Ward: A great soruce of what essentially amounts to temporary hit points, but since they aren't technically temporary hit points the two effects stack. You shouldn't need this frequently, but it's great to have, and it greatly reduces your need for Constitution. Of course, once you get Projected Ward this stops being about you, and starts being about keeping your party members alive.
- Projected Ward: Your party's Defender likely takes a lot more damage than you, so soaking some of it with your ward can really cut down on how many resources your party must devote to healing.
- Improved Abjuration: Counterspell is an off-switch for enemy spellcasters. Adding your proficiency bonus dramatically improves its effectiveness, making you able to easily prevent enemy spellcasters from doing anything at all without the need to burn your highest-level spell slots.
- Spell Resistance: Resistance to spells is great for resisting dangerous save or suck spells, and resistance to spell damage makes you greatly resistant to direct damage spells which typically don't require saves.
- School of ConjurationPHB: Conjuration
does a lot of things, but generally when you think of a conjurer you think of
summoning creatures. The Concentration rules only allow you to have one Summon
X spell running at a time, and the School of Conjuration only provides two
summoning-centric abilities, and neither are fantastic. Overall, Scholl of
Conjuration is lackluster, and you can get by as a Conjurer just fine without
- Minor Conjuration: Like creation spells, Minor Conjuration's effectiveness depends heavily on your creativity and on your DM's permissiveness. At the very least you can summon cylindrical logs and roll them around in dungeons to set of traps.
- Benign Transposition: A great way to get around when there's enemies present, especially if you switch places with your Defender and drop him in the middle of a bunch of surprised enemies. Of course, this can be largely replaced by Misty Step, which can be used as a Bonus Action at the cost of a 2nd-level spell slot.
- Focused Conjuration: This is great for keeping your summoned creature around even if you take damage, but at this level you have plenty of ways to keep yourself out of trouble.
- Durable Summons: At high levels your best summon spell is Summon Celestial, which gets you a CR 5 creature. The flat number scale of 5e means that your pet will still be reasonably effective, but they will have considerably fewer hit points than a creature you can reasonably expect to face in combat. 30 hit points goes a long way to keep your summons alive, but by this level you can't expect these hit points to buy you more than one extra round of focused damage output.
- School of DivinationPHB: Forewarned is
fore-armed, and Divination is all about forewarning. If you ever walk into a
room without knowin who and what is inside it, you aren't casting enough
Divinations. The biggest problem with relying heavily on divinations is that
they can quickly eat your spell slots with little tangible effect. Fortunately,
Expert Divination dramatically reduces the cost of casting Divinations. Portent
provides a wonderful mechanic to save your party from unlucky rolls by anyone
at the table.
- Portent: Roll high? Save it for important saving throws. Roll low? Use it to replace an enemy attack roll. There is no way for this to be bad unless you forget to use it.
- Expert Divination: This dramatically expands the number of spells you can cast in a day. If you ever think "is it worth a spell slot to cast a Divination right now?", the answer should always be yes. Throw them around like confetti.
- The Third Eye: Darkvision isn't a Divination, so this is a great way to get it for free, and you can't get Etheral Sight from a spell (to the best of my knowledge). The other effects be replicate with See Invisibility and Comprehend Languages, which cost next to nothing to cast thanks to Expert Divination.
- Greater Portent: Not a game changer, but Portent is fantastic, and this makes it 50% more powerful.
- School of EnchantmentPHB: School of
Enchantment is decent, but not terribly exciting. Split Enchantment is the only
really exciting ability it provides, but it's good enough to make Enchantment
viable, especially once you have some really good save-or-suck spells.
- Hypnotic Gaze: As a Wizard you should not spend a whole lot of time 5 feet away from enemies. But if you find yourself face to face with something unfriendly, flash those baby blues and hit it with your Hypnotic Gaze. This allows you to indefinitely lock down a single target. In an encounter where your allies outnumber the enemies (or at leas the significant ones) this is a great way to tilt the balance of the encounter in your favor, even if this also takes you out of the encounter.
- Instinctive Charm: This is a great way to make enemy ranged attackers hit their own allies (or at least your allies if the enemy doesn't have friends nearby. To use this in melee you will need to have an adjacent ally to draw fire.
- Split Enchantment: Many of the best Enchantment spells are single-target, which is a problem in encounters with more than one enemy. This functionally doubles your spell output with your best spells.
- Alter Memories: This ability is the only Wizard ability which calls for Charisma, and it's extremeley situational. This could have easily been a spell.
- School of EvocationPHB: Evocation is
the blunt hammer of magic. It's not subtle, it's not elegant, and it's often
imprecise. But hey, when 90% of problems are nails, the hammer is the king of
tools. Evocation is a great option for players who are new to spellcasters
because the spells are mechanically simple, and usually leave little room for
interpretation of their effects. A couple of School of Evocation's abilities
are problematic, but Scult Spells is great for new players, and Overchannel
is a really exciting high-level ability.
- Sculpt Spells: Friendly fire happens inevitably when you have an Evoker in the party. This goes a long way to cut down on the problem, but you should still try to avoid hitting your allies wherever possible.
- Potent Cantrip: Acid Splash and Poison Spray are the only damaging Wizard cantrips in the PHB which require a saving throw. If you are ever at the point that half damage from a cantrip is essential, you are in a truly bad place, and should consider all of the poor life choices which led you to that point.
- Empowered Evocation: A bonus to damage like this is a considerable boost, especially for your low-level spells. According to Sage Advice, this bonus applies to each missile of magic missile and to all targets of an AOE, but only to one attack for multi-attack spells like Scorching Ray. This means that Magic Missile is a considerably better spell, and low-level AOEs like Burning Hands can still be decent damage sources as you level.
- Overchannel: This is a great way to get more mileage out of reliable lower-level spells like Magic Missle and Fireball at a level where your higher-level spells would generally eclipse them. Just be sure to have a Cleric handy when you start taking damage.
- School of IllusionPHB: Illusion is one
of the most complex, open-ended, and flexible schools of magic. It is limited
only by your and your DM's imaginations. If you are a creative, artistic person
who thinks on their feet, Illusions can be exceptionally powerful.
- Improved Minor Illusion: Minor Illusion can be incredibly powerful in the hands of a smart caster, and adding both effects on one casting makes it considerably more useful.
- Malleable Illusions: A simple solution to animate your illusions. Changing your illusions from a static image to something else periodically can be a very effective way to convince enemies that the illusion is real.
- Illusory Self: Ignore one attack against you for free, once per rest. Very good for a squishy Wizard.
- Illusory Reality: This turns your illusions into creation spells. You can't directly harm enemies with them, but the rules say nothing about impeding, restraining, or blocking them. Throw up a Silent Image to create a wall of stone between you and your foes, or to put a cage around them.
- School of NecromancyPHB: Necromancy
is a cool school. A lot of people want to summon an army of undead, then roll
over their enemies. This is a great strategy, but make sure that your party
is okay with the party being outnumbered by pets.
- Grim Harvest: This won't work with cantrips (0*2=0), but it can be a nice way to heal yourself with your other spells. RAW you can use this on any creature, so there's nothing to stop your from pulling a wagon full of rabbits for you to eat when you need hit points.
- Undead Thralls: Additional hit points and damage will make your pet undead considerably more lethal. Remember that having more undead will require you to spend more spell slots every day, so don't have too many.
- Inured to Undeath: Situational.
- Command Undead: This is a very useful ability if you have enemies who laso use undead, but the fact that intelligent undead (very common by this level) get advantage on the save makes this ability had to use effectively.
- School of TransmutationPHB: Transmutation
gets you very little which you couldn't already get easily from other places.
- Minor Alchemy: It's hard to say how best to use this, but at the very least you could turn a block of wood into silver and sell it before it reverts.
- Transmuter's Stone: Several excellent buffs to choose from, and you can change the selected buff easily.
- Shapechanger: Helpful for scouting and utility purposes, but it won't get you through a fight, and you can use a Rogue or a Divination spell for scouting.
- Master Transmuter: The Panacea and Restore Life options are very good, but both are situational.
Wizards are a single-ability class. All you need is Intelligence, ans everything else is supplemental.
Str: Dump stat. A Wizard should know better.
Dex: A bit for AC is nice, but that's all you get unless you go for Bladesinging, in which case you will want a bunch for the rapier that you're going to use.
Con: Hit points and Constitution saves are problems for Wizards.
Int: A Wizard's first priority should be to get 20 Intelligence. Their second priority should be to find a way to exceed 20 Intelligence.
Wis: Good for Wisdom saves.
Cha: Dump stat.
|Point Buy||Standard Array|
Intelligence bonuses are crucial, and little else matters.
AarakocraEEPC: No useful ability bonuses, and flight stops being as cool when you can cast a spell for it.
AasimarVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
- Fallen: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
- Protector: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
- Scourge: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
BugbearVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
Dwarf: The only thing which Dwarfs offer the Wizard is hit points, and if a Wizard needed hit points WotC wouldn't have only given them a d6 hit die.
- DuergarSCAG: Strength and some spells which a Wizard can already cast.
- HillPHB: Of the two Dwarfs, Hill Dwarf is the better option only because it gets even more hit points and the bonus Wisdom is helpful for the Wisdom saves.
- MountainPHB: A Wizard with strength is like a fish with a bicycle. Both are absurdities imagined by fools.
DragonbornPHB: None of the Dragonborn's abilities are helpful to the wizard, and if you want something like a breath weapon there are plenty of spells which will do the job.
ElfPHB: Dexterity is nice for your AC, and Perception can be very effective if you didn't dump Wisdom. Darkvision is welcome on any character, but when you can cast Darkvision or conjure up light it quickly stops being important.
- Drow: The Charisma bonus is wasted on a Wizard, and the extra spells will be lousy since they're Charisma-based.
- High Elf: A small bonus to Intelligence, and you get an extra cantrip for free. Altogether a solid choice.
- Wood Elf: Wisdom is nice for saves and Perception, but that's the best that the Wizard gets from the Wood Elf.
FirbolgVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
GenasiEEPC: Constitution is great for everyone, but doesn't play directly to what the Wizard needs.
- Air: Dexterity doesn't help Wizards much, and the Air Genasis other abilities are terrible.
- Earth: Earth Genasi are melee monsters.
- Fire: Intelligence, Darkvision, a free offensive cantrip, Burning Hands once per day, and fire resistance so you can drop fireballs on yourself a bit more often. Altogether, a decent option for Evokers.
- Water: Nothing useful for a Wizard.
GoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
Gnome: A bonus to Intelligence is exactly what you want. Darkvision is nice, but can be replicated with a spell. You also get advantage on mental saving throws against spells, which is a great flavor for a Wizard.
- Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Interesting for stealthy Wizard or an illusionist, especially in a subterranean campaign.
- ForestPHB: A small Dexterity bonus can help your AC, and Minor Illusion for free saves you a Cantrip.
- RockPHB: A small Constitution bonus can get you some much-needed hit points, and Artificer's Lore is a great flavor for a Wizard. Tinker is easily replaced by magic.
Half-Elf: Half-elfs are arguably the best race in the core rulebook, but they don't do much for wizards. You can still get a small bonus to intelligence, but the half-elf doesn't offer anything which you can't get elsewhere.
- AquaticSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
- DrowSCAG: The free spells are decent, but you can cast comparable spells.
- High/Moon/SunSCAG: You get enough of your own cantrips already.
- Keen SensesSCAG: The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifices that you can take Keen Senses in place of Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage. Keen Senses give you a single fixed skill, and you're giving up proficiency in any two skills. It should be immediately apparent that this is a terrible trade.
- WoodSCAG: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
- VanillaPHB: Two free skills means that you can pick up some more knowledge skills.
Half-OrcPHB: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
HalflingPHB: Dexterity is nice for your AC, but the Halfling offers little else that is specifically useful to the Wizard.
- Ghostwise: Nothing useful for wizards.
- Lightfoot: Charisma is worthless to a Wizard, and if you need stealth you can cast Invisibility.
- Stout: Constitution is nice, but hardly essential. Still, the Stout halfling is marginally better than the Lightfoot.
HobgoblinVGTM: The Constitution increase makes you nice and durable, and Saving Face is really great if you miss an attack roll with a high-level spell.
HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.
- Vanilla: Wizards really only need Intelligence, so a +1 to all of your scores is totally wasted.
- Variant: You can still get a small bonus to your Intelligence, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1, plus you can use the free skill to get an extra Knowledge skill, especially one that's not on the Wizard skill list like Nature. If you're looking at the Skilled feat, consider a Half-Elf instead.
KenkuVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
KoboldVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
LizardfolkVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
OrcVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
TabaxiVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
TortleTP: A definite possibility for a Bladesinger Wizard, but I wouldn't consider it for other wizards.
TritonVGTM: Nothing useful for the Wizard.
Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Better suited to Sorcers and Warlocks, but purebloods still make excellent wizards.
Tiefling:A small bonus to Intelligence, and access to Thaumaturgy, which is wierd for a Wizard.
- FeralSCAG: Marginally better because Wizards get more from Dexterity than from Charisma.
- Devil's TongueSCAG: Changing the spells doesn't really improve the Tiefling for Wizards.
- HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands works better for Wizards than Hellish Rebuke.
- VanillaPHB: The ability scores just don't work well for a Wizard compared to something with a +2 Intelligence bonus.
- WingedSCAG: Flight is tempting, especially since you don't need the free spells on a Wizard.
- Arcana (Int): Wizards are all about Arcana, so it's reasonable to assume that you know it.
- History (Int): Helpful, especially in campaigns which go into history frequently.
- Insight (Wis): You likely don't have enough Wisdom to be particularly good at this, but it can be helpful if your party's Face doesn't have it.
- Investigation (Int): Helpful, but likely best left for the party's Scout.
- Medicine (Wis): Leave this for Clerics.
- Religion (Int): One of the more important knowledge skills, and you ar eprobably better with it than the CLeric.
With the Wizard's Intelligence, you want as many knowledge skills as you can get.
- AcolytePHB: Two skills from the Wizard skill list, and two languages. Not awful, but nothing that you really need to have.
- Clan CrafterSCAG: History is good, but Wizards typically don't get a lot of use out of Insight, and artificer's tools aren't terribly useful.
- Cloistered ScholarSCAG: Two knowledge skills are great, and you get to pick one. The bonus languages might not be particularly helpful, since you can handle languages magically.
- Faction AgentSCAG: Insight is okay, and the flexible skill choice is nice, but you can get the languages magically.
- HermitPHB: Two skills from the Wizard skill list, one language, and proficiency with the herbalist's kit, which could be useful.
- SagePHB: Two of the better skills from the Wizard skill list, and two languages. The bonus languages might not be particularly helpful, since you can handle languages magically.
- AlertPHB: The bonus to Initiative is tempting because spellcasters can do so much to affect a fight if they go first, but nothing else is particularly helpful.
- AthletePHB: You can solve all of these problems by flying.
- ActorPHB: Not for Wizards.
- ChargerPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Crossbow ExpertPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Defensive DuelistPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Dual WielderPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Dungeon DelverPHB: Best left for Rogues.
- DurablePHB: If you need this you are not a very good Wizard.
- Elemental AdeptPHB: Very tempting for Evokers, but specializing in one element is severely limiting. If something is resistant to one element, use a different one. Changing 1's to 2's averages 1/6 damage per die, which is as close to nothing as you will ever see.
- GrapplerPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Great Weapon MasterPHB: Not for Wizards.
- HealerPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Heavily ArmoredPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Heavy Armor MasterPHB: Good luck getting enough feats to pick this up.
- Inspiring LeaderPHB: A great feat, but you need Chari
- Keen MindPHB: A partial bonus to Intelligence, but the other bonuses are worthless.
- Lightly ArmoredPHB: Mage Armor works fine.
- LinguistPHB: Cast Tongues.
- LuckyPHB: Amuzing, but not particularly useful to Wizards since they don't frequently roll attacks or saves.
- Mage SlayerPHB: Wizards don't typically carry melee weapons.
- Magic InitiatePHB: A tempting way to get cantrips from other classes, but remember that you use the spellcasting ability of that other class, and since your Wisdom and Charisma will be poor so will your spellcasting. Stick to utility options
- Martial AdeptPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Medium Armor MasterPHB: Good luck getting enough feats to pick this up.
- MobilePHB: You can solve all of these problems by flying.
- Moderately ArmoredPHB: Mage Armor works fine.
- Mounted CombatPHB: Not for Wizards.
- ObservantPHB: A partial Intelligence bonus, and the passive Investigation bonus can be useful.
- Polearm MasterPHB: Not for Wizards.
- ResilientPHB: You don't really need other saving throw proficiencies.
- Ritual CasterPHB: All of the same issues as Magic Initiate. Really only useful if your party needs access to Cleric rituals.
- Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
- SentinelPHB: Not for Wizards.
- SharpshooterPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Shield MasterPHB: Not for Wizards.
- SkilledPHB: Proficiencies are great, especially since Wizards get few skills, but if you really need skills you should probably play a Half-elf or start as a Rogue.
- SkulkerPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Spell SniperPHB: Great for spellcasters who like to make spell attacks. Selecting this at first level as a variant Human makes the Human strictly better than the High Elf.
- Tavern BrawlerPHB: Not for Wizards.
- ToughPHB: If you need this you are not a very good Wizard.
- War CasterPHB: A really great feat, but generally best left to Eldritch Knights.
- Weapon MasterPHB: Not for Wizards.
- Dagger: Carry one or two for utility purposes, but don't plan to pull them out in combat.
- Light Crossbow: Why bother when you can cast Ray of Frost for free?
- Quarterstaff: A great cosmetic item, but totally useless in combat. Use Shocking Grasp instead.
- Rapier: The Bladesigning Wizard's go-to weapon.
You're funny. If you need AC, cast Mage Armor.
- Fighter: If you want Action Surge, two levels of Fighter are tempting, but remember that you're giving up an entire level of spells to get one to three extra spells per day (the game expects two short rests in a full day of adventuring). If you want to be a fighter that blasts stuff, Eldritch Knight exists for a reason.