The Wizard is the iconic arcane spellcaster, capable of doing all manner of fantastic tricks, and generally limited only by their spellbook and their spell slots. 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 their 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, Controller, Librarian, Support caster, Striker, and Utility Caster. Depending on your spells and potentially your skills, you can also serve as a Defender, Face, Healer (though it’s difficult), and Scout. You may think, “but wait, isn’t that every role?”. Yes. Yes, it is.
However, with that incredible breadth of capability comes both complexity and risk. Most of this complexity is buried in the Wizard’s spellcasting. Wizards get very few actual class/subclass features, but spellcasting fills in the gaps. Managing a spellbook is a complex, and unlike clerics and druids who can select from a vast spell list after every long rest, you need to hoard newly-learned spells to expand your capabilities, sometimes at great expense, so learning new spells may be a gamble, costing precious gold for a spell which you may never use. If you are prone to analysis paralysis, the wizard is a waking nightmare.
Wizards are among the least-durable characters in the game, having no armor proficiencies, poor saving throws, and the lowest hit dice available. Staying alive as a wizard can be very difficult, and in most cases requires a part of sturdy allies willing to protect you from harm. There are exceptions to this rule (bladesingers can achieve some of the highest AC in the game without the aid of magic items), but they are few in number.
I’ll tell anyone who asks that the Wizard is my favorite class, and that has been the case since early in my career with Dungeons and Dragons. The Wizard is a class that rewards system mastery, and while you don’t need to be an experienced player to succeed as a wizard, improving your familiarity with the game will pay dividends.
After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read our other supporting articles:
If you’re playing Baldur’s Gate 3, you might also enjoy our Baldur’s Gate 3 Wizard Handbook.
Table of Contents
- Wizard Class Features
- Wizard Ability Scores
- Wizard Races
- Wizard Skills
- Wizard Backgrounds
- Wizard Feats
- Wizard Weapons
- Wizard Armor
- Wizard Magic Items
- Example Wizard Build – High Elf Wizard (Evoker)
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released, and the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.
Wizard Class Features
Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.
: 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.
: Intelligence saves are very rare, and proficiency in Wisdom saves won’t help much if your Wisdom is terrible.
: Wizard’s weapons are pitiful, but can be easily replaced by cantrips. Wizards also get no armor, so it’s either Mage Armor or nothing for the vast majority of wizards. Wizards only get the standard two skills, which is difficult considering that your party will expect you to cover as many knowledge skills as possible, leaving many wizards with little room to diversify.
: 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.
For help selecting spells, see my Wizard Spell List Breakdown.
: 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 a bunch of spell slots, allowing you to continue at least through the first short rest of each day without issue. While Arcane Recovery can’t restore slots above 6th level and therefore diminishes in importance at high levels, it’s still a crucial resource, allowing you to recover low-level spell slots will remain a perpetual source of crucial defensive and utility spells like Shield and Darkvision.
Arcane Tradition: Wizard subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Wizard Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.
- Bladesinging: Masters of fighting with both weapons and with spells, bladesingers can perform a secret song and dance which makes them deadly in combat. Among the most caster-focused gish options.
- Chronurgy Magic: Manipulate the flow of time, allowing you to force rerolls, to stop creatures, and even to temporarily suspend spells in a tiny bead and share it with your allies. Chronurgists also gain access to the Dunamancy spell list.
- Graviturgy Magic: Manipulate space and gravity to move your foes about on the battlefield and crush them with powerful gravitational effects. Graviturgists also gain access to the Dunamancy spell list.
- Order of the Scribes: Awaken your spellbook, and master the central concepts of wizardly magic, allowing you to learn spells faster than other wizards and employ them in new and unusual ways.
- School of Abjuration: Masters of protective magic, Abjurers gain a powerful magical ward which can absorb damage dealt to you or your allies and recharges when you cast abjuration spells.
- School of Conjuration: Masters of teleportation and summoning, conjurers can teleport without using a spell and are better at using summoned creatures.
- School of Divination: Diviners gain the powerful Portent feature, allowing them to roll two to three d20’s at the beginning of the day and use them to replace rolls, as well as the ability to cast divination spells and incredible little cost.
- School of Enchantment: Powerful and versatile spellcasters, enchanters gain abilities to charm and hypnotize foes, and to affect additional targets with single-target enchantment spells.
- School of Evocation: Exceptional at dealing damage with spells, evokers deal more damage with cantrips than other spellcaster, and can make safe spaces in their area damage spells to avoid harming allies.
- School of Illusion: Masters of illusion spells, illusionists gain abilities to manipulate illusion spells beyond their normal limits, including the ability to make them partially real.
- School of Necromancy: Gain the ability to heal yourself when you kill other creatures, and to more easily create and control undead, including powerful ones far more powerful than spells alone would allow.
- School of Transmutation: Gain abilities to turn things into other things, like wood into metal, yourself into an animal, dead things into live things, and injured or sick things into happy and healthy things.
- War Magic: Powerful combatants, war wizards gain abilities to defend themselves against attacks and to boost their spell damage by countering or dispelling other spells.
: 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 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 Shatter (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, a save-or-suck spell like Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, defensive options like Absorb Elements and Shield, and more strategically interesting options like Magic Missile for breaking enemy spellcasters’ Concentration.
: 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 improves your versatility even at this level when you’re already able to prepare so many.
Optional Class Features
Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Optional Class Features offer ways to add additional features or replace existing ones. These rules are optional, and you should not assume that your DM will allow these features without consulting them first.
Assessments and suggestions for specific Optional Class Features are presented here, but for more information on handling Optional Class Features in general, see my Practical Guide to Optional Class Features.
(Addition): Everything added by this optional feature makes sense on the Wizard’s spell list, And surprisingly few of them are additions from existing sources. Most of the new spells are published or re-published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
I recommend allowing the expanded spell list on all wizards. The new spells fill in gaps in the wizards capabilities which made it either mechanically or thematically unsatisfying to play certain wizard subclasses like School of Conjuration and School of Necromancy because spell options for those subclasses were so limited and often involved significantly disrupting the game for everyone at the table.
(Addition): The fact that wizards have no way to replace their known cantrips has confused me since the earliest days of DnD 5e’s lifespan. They’re the one type of spell that the wizard can’t expand or replace, and I’m still not sure why. My one complaint with this feature is that the Wizard doesn’t need to write the cantrips into their spellbook, which thematically feels very odd.
I recommend allowing Cantrip Versatility on all wizards. You can’t get anything which you couldn’t already have, so it doesn’t make your character more powerful. If you need a way to balance that, make the wizard write cantrips into their spellbook at half the cost of a 1st-level spell.
Wizard Ability Scores
Wizards are a single-ability class. All you need is Intelligence, and everything else is supplemental.
: Dump stat. A Wizard should know better.
: A bit for AC is nice and Dexterity saves are common, but that’s all you get unless you go for Bladesinging, in which case you will want a bunch for the weapon that you’re going to use. You can limp along at low levels using a crossbow in place of offensive cantrips, but you don’t need to strain yourself to get 16 Dexterity unless your race makes that easy. 14 will do fine.
: Hit points and Constitution saves are problems for Wizards. A wizard with less than 14 Constitution is a choice to gamble with your life.
: A Wizard’s first priority should be to get 20 Intelligence. Their second priority should be to find a way to exceed 20 Intelligence, but there are very few ways to do that.
: Good for Wisdom saves. You want a bit to protect yourself, but fortunately wizards are also proficient in Wisdom saves.
: Dump stat.
Intelligence bonuses are crucial, and nothing else is strictly necessary. Things which add to your spellcasting capabilities like extra cantrips are great, and ways to increase your durability are like Dexterity or Constitution increases or natural armor can be really nice, but none of those are absolutely necessary.
For help selecting a race, see our Wizard Races Breakdown.
For a classic wizard feel, consider the High Elf. For a nice durable wizard, the Mountain Dwarf and the Tortle will both improve your durability considerably. For a powerful build, consider the Fairy.
- (Int): Wizards are all about Arcana, so it’s reasonable to assume that you know it.
- (Int): Helpful, especially in campaigns which go into history frequently.
- (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.
- (Int): Helpful, but likely best left for the party’s Scout.
- (Wis): This skill is useless. Medicine is best done magically.
- (Int): One of the more important knowledge skills, and you are probably better with it than the Cleric.
This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.
With the Wizard’s Intelligence, you want as many knowledge skills as you can get. There aren’t great tool options for most wizards and languages may not be useful with poor Charisma and access to magical solutions to language barriers, but when all of the options are poor there’s a lot of flexibility to pick something fun rather than something that’s definitely useful.
If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:
- PHB: Two skills from the Wizard skill list, and two languages. Not awful, but nothing that you really need to have and it doesn’t expand your options.
- SCAG: History is good, but Wizards typically don’t get a lot of use out of Insight, and artificer’s tools aren’t terribly useful.
- SCAG: 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.
- SCAG: Insight is okay, and the flexible skill choice is nice, but you can get the languages magically.
- PHB: Two skills from the Wizard skill list, one language, and proficiency with the herbalist’s kit, which you can use to craft potions of healing.
- PHB: 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.
This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.
- PHB: 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.
- TCoE: The Artificer’s spell list overlaps considerably with the Wizard’s, but the Artificer has some enticing 1st-level spell options like Faerie Fire and Cure Wounds, and since the Artificer also uses Intelligence these spells will work nicely with the rest of your spellcasting.
- BoMT: The card spell effectively lets you choose one spell from your spell list (not from your prepared spells) and quicken it ahead of time. You do still need to spend a spell slot, so this isn’t any better than quickening a spell with Metamagic Adept, and you give up the ability to change which spell you quicken. This isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as Metamagic Adept for prepared spellcasters.
- PHB: 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 if you’re rolling d6’s, which is as close to nothing as you will ever see.
- TCoE: Misty Step once per day for free is nice, but not essential. The
1st-level spells include few options that the Wizard can’t already cast, but
Bless or Heroism might be tempting. There’s nothing here that’s going to
significantly improve your wizard, but if you’re at 19 Intelligence it’s at
least worth a look.
For more advice on Fey Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- FToD: The ability to do some healing as a wizard is very tempting, but Cure Wounds isn’t a great option and Protective Wings forces you to be places where you don’t want to be (near someone being attacked) if you want to make it useful. If you only want to use it for yourself, just cast Shield.
- TCoE: Bladesingers might consider this, but it’s not significantly better than using a longbow and since you’re using a cantrip in place of one of your attacks (check the Bladesinger’s version of Extra Attack), you’re getting very little benefit from this.
- PHB: A partial bonus to Intelligence, but the other bonuses are nearly worthless. You could use this to do things like recall the appearance of documents and use that recollection to create perfect illusory replicas, but the situations in which you would use that are exceptionally rare.
- PHB: Mage Armor works fine. If you’re desperate for manufactured armor, multiclass into something that gets you better armor.
- PHB: Amusing, but not particularly useful to Wizards since they don’t frequently roll attacks or saves. This could be useful for Concentration, but I think it’s better to invest in avoiding damage rather than attempting to suffer the damage and mitigate the effects. If you find that you’re making more than three Constitution saves in a day, Resilient (Constitution) may be a better choice.
- PHB: 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 compared to your Intelligence, so will your
spellcasting. Stick to utility options or options which don’t care about
your spellcasting ability modifier if you insist on taking this.
For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- TCoE: Excellent on any spellcaster. The Wizard has some great options for Extended Spell like Mage Armor and summon spells. Evokers will enjoy Transmuted Spell, and basically any wizard will enjoy options like Quickened Spell and Twinned Spell. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
- PHB: A partial Intelligence bonus, and the passive Investigation bonus can be useful.
- PHB: Proficiency in Constitution saves really helps with Concentration, not to mention how common Consitution saves are. If you care primarily about Concentration it’s easy to compare this to War Caster. Advantage works out to a little more than +3, so once your Proficiency Bonus hits +4 Resilient becomes the more effective option of the two. However, Concentration only becomes a factor if you’re taking damage. If you’re taking damage, you have much bigger problems than Concentration. Instead, boost your Intelligence and use the extra prepared spell to pick up something that will keep you from getting hit like Shield, Invisibility, Blink, or Mirror Image.
- PHB: All of the same issues as Magic Initiate. Really only useful if your party needs access to Cleric rituals.
- TCoE: Most of the spells are already available to the Wizard, and the two extra
spells per day will have very little impact.
For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- PHB: Proficiencies are great, especially since Wizards get few skills, but if you really need skills you should probably play a race that gives you extra skill proficiencies or start as a Rogue.
- PHB: The only spells that are viable for you to select are already on the
Wizard’s spell list. If making spell attacks is a problem, use something
that requires saving throws instead.
For more advice on Spell Sniper, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- TCoE: While the Wizard does have options to use their Bonus Action, most of them involve spending spell slots, and even if you have a mountain of spell slots to burn your Bonus Action is still going to be idle on many turns. In those cases, Telekinetic adds a useful way to spend your Bonus Action to have a tactical impact. Moving a creature 5 feet often isn’t a big deal, but it’s enough to break grapples and sometimes it’s enough to force enemies into hazardous places like the area of ongoing spells.
- TCoE: Unlike many sources of telepathy, including those offered by some races, this telepathy still uses languages, so the benefits are minimally appealing even for a Face. You do get to increase a mental ability score, which reduces the cost of the feat, but the benefits are primarily the ability to communicate while being stealthy.
- PHB: Cast False Life instead.
- PHB: A really great feat, but generally best left to Artificers and Eldritch Knights. Bladesingers can get a lot of use out of it while they’re in melee, but if you just want Advantage on Concentration checks I think Lucky or Resilient are better options.
- : Carry one or two for utility purposes at any level, but the damage isn’t good enough to make it better than shocking grasp. You can make opportunity attacks with a dagger, but that’s not something you should be doing frequently.
- : Until you hit level 5, a light crossbow can do more damage than firebolt. If you have at least 14 Dexterity, a light crossbow is a better option than firebolt at low levels when you just need to do some damage (Crossbow DPR with 14 Dex roughly 3.9 compared to 3.575 to Fire Bolt with 16 Int from levels 1 through 3, then 3.575 for both at level 4).
- : A great cosmetic item, but totally useless in combat. Use Shocking Grasp or a Dagger instead.
- : The Bladesinger Wizard’s go-to weapon.
- : Tempting for the Bladesinger if you want to explore Two-Weapon Fighting, but you can’t perform Somatic components with a weapon in your hand so you can’t cast Shield if you’re using two scimitars. You’ll need War Caster to overcome that limitation, and even if you go that route remember that you’ll often want your Bonus Action for casting spells like Misty Step.
Cast Mage Armor and learn Shield. At low levels that will be enough to keep you safe, but at high levels you’ll likely dump mage armor because enemies’ attack bonuses will be so high that it will stop being helpful. You might keep shield around for those rare times when it would deflect an attack, but you’re better served by other spells like Blur or Blink.
This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see our Practical Guide to Multiclassing.
- : Starting with a level in artificer gets you a lot. Proficiency in medium armor, shields, and Constitution saving throws are really tempting, plus artificers get access to some low-level spells which the Wizard doesn’t like Cure Wounds. The Artificer’s multiclassing rules allow you to round up when determining spell slots (other spellcasting class round down), so while you don’t learn spells of new spell levels as quickly you still get the same spell slot progression. It’s nothing that you absolutely need to have, but for 1 level it’s pretty good. Bladesingers might consider 3 levels to get the Battlesmith’s Battle Ready feature, allowing them to use Intelligence for weapon attacks and damage.
- : A single level with the right domain can get you heavy armor proficiency, not to mention how many great low-level spells the Cleric has.
- : 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, Bladesinger and Eldritch Knight exist for a reason.
Wizard Magic Items
Common Magic Items
- : Easy access to all of those weird, situational cantrips that aren’t worth learning permanently. A DC 10 Arcana check is trivial for the Wizard; a typical wizard will get +5 to the check at level 1, and by level 9 passes the check on a natural 1. Unfortunately, this does require Attunement and you can only attempt to use it once per day, so you may abandon this in favor of other items later in your career.
- XGtE: Tempting for the Bladesinger, but the Bladesinger generally fights with a one-handed weapon so you have a hand free to cast spells. I would consider this if you like two-weapon fighting as a bladesinger, but remember that you still need a free hand to cast Absorb Elements and Shield and Ruby of the War Mage won’t fix that.
Uncommon Magic Items
- : +1 to spell attacks and save DC’s. The improvement to Arcane Recovery isn’t huge, but it makes it easier to recover higher-level spell slots. You don’t get to exceed the cap of 6th level, but at low levels the ability to recover slightly more powerful spell slots is a big improvement.
- DMG: Easily overlooked, but one of the best ways to get flight for any character. It doesn’t require attunement, and has a fly speed of 50 feet, though many medium characters will exceed the 200 pound limit to reduce the speed to 30 feet, but even then 30 feet fly speed with no duration cap and requiring no action after speaking the command word is absolutely incredible. The only drawback is that you’re using the item’s speed rather than giving yourself a fly speed, so things that improve your speed won’t make the broom move faster, and you can’t Dash with the broom. Even so, I honestly can’t justify why this is only Uncommon considering how exceptionally good it is.
- DMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it’s not very interesting.
- DMG: Excellent in dungeon crawls. Investigation is typically used for finding things like traps, and even if you’re not proficient you almost certainly have the highest Intelligence in the party.
- DMG: Crucial for races which don’t get Darkvision, especially if your party can’t cast the Darkvision spell for you.
- : By the time you can get this, you probably already have 18 Intelligence so there’s little benefit. Give it to the least-intelligent person in the party.
- DMG: Useful on any spellcaster.
- DMG: The next-best thing to flight. Walking up a wall has all the benefits of flying out of reach.
- DMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Note that ability checks include Initiative rolls and checks to counter/dispel things.
- DMG: Helpful if you’re heavily reliant on cantrips like Fire Bolt, but an Arcane Grimoire will be considerably more useful.
- DMG: Helpful for the Bladesinger.
- DMG: Excellent on its own, but Winged Boots are more limited in use than a broom of flying, and they require Attunement.
Rare Magic Items
- TCoE: While the Alchemical Compendium doesn’t provide a bonus to your spell
attacks and spell DC’s like the Arcane Grimoire, it’s still an amazing item
with a ton of utility that may not be obvious at first. The first benefit of
the item is the simplest, allowing you to draw on your growing collection of
spells in your spellbook on short notice, allowing you to use weird,
situational transmutation spells that typically aren’t worth preparing like
Alter Self or Skywrite.
The second benefit is considerably more complex, but it’s complex enough that it’s definitely worth exploring. The obvious use is to turn one object into another object, such as a weapon into a tool to get past an obstacle, or a block of gold into a diamond so that you can raise an ally from the dead. There doesn’t seem to be any limitation on the final size of the object or on special materials, so you can do weird things like turning a gold bar into a stone boulder or a torch into a dead mouse (dead bodies are objects).
Even better, you can use this to sabotage obstacles, such as by turning door hinges or locks into coins. In fact, spending a charge of the book to turn random objects into money (coins, gems, or bars of precious metals all work) is a great idea because it removes a problematic object and gives you a small, value-dense object of a specific value which you can then use later to recreate that object if necessary. Unfortunately you can’t turn multiple objects into one object or one object into multiple objects (no piles of coins), but if necessary you can just melt metal together to make it a single object.
- DMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don’t need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you’re really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI’s into Constitution means more room for feats. Combining this with Resilient (Constitution) or War Caster can do a lot to make Concentration easier.
- : +2 to spell attacks and save DC’s. See Arcane Grimoire under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
- TCoE: The ability to trade prepared spells to access divination spells as-needed means that you can easily access things like Identify and Tongues without needing to keep them prepared all the time. The second benefit is extremely powerful even at a maximum of three uses per day. Use it to buff your allies saves against dangerous things like save-or-scuk effects or to debuff enemies who are attempting to resist your high-level spells.
- TCoE: The ability to trade prepared spells to access conjuration spells as-needed means that you can easily access things like Find Familiar and Plane Shift without needing to keep them prepared all the time. Many conjuration spells are very situational and you may not need them while actively adventuring, but might want them at the end of the day or when you decide it’s time to teleport home. The teleportation effect is neat and can get you out of grapples, but the range is tiny so you may still want Misty Step prepared. You only need to hit by an attack to trigger it, so you could punch yourself (or have an ally do it) in order to forcibly trigger the teleportation.
- TCoE: Way better than Mage Armor and you don’t need to raise your Dexterity past 14 to still have good AC.
- DMG: Get a Barrier Tattoo (Rare).
- DMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
- TCoE: Among the school-specific focuses of this type, the Duplicitous Manuscript is one of the least useful. While it shares the ability to change a prepared spell, you’ll rarely need to change which illusions you’ve prepared within the space of a day unless you need to break out the really unusual options like Seeming and Hallucinatory Terrain. The second benefit allows you to impose Disadvantage when creatures try to break your illusions, but it’s one charge to affect one creature on one check or save, so it’s expensive and not very effective. A +1 or +2 spellcasting focus will yield more consistent results and will work consistently across all of your spells rather than only for the maximum of three times per day where you can use the Duplicitous Manuscript.
- DMG: One less AC than Barrier Tattoo (Rare), but it doesn’t require attunement, so in a game with abundant magic items Elven Chain may be a better choice.
- TCoE: Generally evocation enthusiasts are Blasters, and have a good mix of spells that they prepare every day to fulfill their magical violence needs. But there are a few situational spells (Contingency, etc.) which you may need to cast once but don’t want to keep prepared when you walk into a fight, so trading a spell can be very helpful. The secondary benefit adds a small amount of damage against a single target and knocks them prone. Considering the book’s rarity, that’s a fairly minor benefit most of the time. But remember that knocking a flying foe prone causes them to fall unless they can hover, and since the effect doesn’t allow a save you can add it to Magic Missile and knock flying foes out of the air unerringly. Imagine casting Magic Missile at first level and causing an ancient dragon to fall and take a mountain of falling damage.
- TCoE: An absolute must for an enchantment enthusiast, the Heart Weaver’s Primer’s second benefit is basically the same as Enhanced Spell. Imposing Disadvantage on even one save can negate a creature as a threat. Enchantment spells include some of the best save-or-suck options in the game, and while many include additional saving throws (Hold Monster, etc.), many don’t unless specific conditions are met (Charm Monster, Hypnotic Pattern). The Disadvantage only affects one creature per charge, but that’s still enough to be massively impactful.
- TCoE: If you’re working with undead you need to be able to handle them without them murdering you for much longer than 30 minutes per day.
- TCoE: Summon spells are fantastic, especially with the addition of the new spells in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The second benefit of this item has a very short duration which encourages you to wait to summon a pet until you actually plan to fight things (normally you can do it ahead of time thanks to the generous hour-long durations), but doing so is absolutely worth the strain for the dramatic improvement in effectiveness.
- TCoE: Abjuration includes a huge number of situational spells like Arcane Lock, so having access to them easily is a big advantage. The second benefit applies a decent amount of temporary hit points, but I would reserve at least 1 charge for trading prepared spells because it’s so easy to spend your charges on the temporary hit points.
- DMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
- DMG: A fine item in a vacuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
- DMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield, and recharge it whenever possible and this is a spectacular defensive asset.
- BoMT: The attack and damage bonuses are totally useless for you, and the damage reroll isn’t useful enough to justify actively trying to get one of these. The best user for this is an Eldritch Knight with Polearm Master, but they can’t attune to this without multiclassing.
- DMG: Helpful for the Bladesinger.
- DMG: Broom of Flying is much better, lower rarity, and doesn’t require attunement.
Very Rare Magic Items
- TCoE: Good, but too high rarity to devote to a single damage type. Get a Ring of Spell Storing and fill it with Absorb Elements.
- : Plane Shift for free, and since it’s an Intelligence check you’ll be able to pass it without too much trouble. If you do fail, you can use it again the next round so long as you don’t end up somewhere which would prevent you from doing so.
- : +3 to spell attacks and save DC’s. See Arcane Grimoire under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
- TCoE: The fixed AC matches full plate, so you don’t need to worry about Dexterity to boost your AC and you don’t even suffer Disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
- TCoE: By the time you’re high enough level to get this item, the 100gp cap won’t be especially helpful. You do get to pretend to know three additional cantrips, which is nice, but at this level you really need this to be better.
- BoMT: Basically Portent once per day, plus one free casting of Divination once per day. Excellent on literally any character.
- DMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you’re using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
- BoMT: The damage resistances are nice, but you’re here for the ability to maximize fire or necrotic damage once per day. Easily missed but very important: It’s not “the first damage roll” like most similar effects. You simply don’t roll damage. That means that this works with spells that do repeated or ongoing damage such as Dragon Breath, Fire Shield, Hex, Illusory Dragon, Scorching Ray, Spirit Shroud, and Wall of Fire. Yes, it’s only once per day, but you can get a ton of mileage out of that single use. Not all of those are on your spell list, but I really want you to understand the possibilities here.
- DMG: Basically only useful against spellcasters, but if you’re facing a spellcaster there are few better defenses.
- DMG: Good go-to spells a few times per day.
- DMG: Decent spells, but knowing Fireball and Wall of Force makes the best options on the staff obsolete.
- DMG: A +2 quarterstaff, +2 to spell attacks (though not to spell DC’s for some reason, so you may want another focus), +2 to both AC and to saving throws, 20 charges, and 9 spells which you can cast. This is powerful, versatile, and all around just an exceptionally powerful item.
- DMG: Permanent Intelligence bonus and raises your cap by 2.
- DMG: Helpful for the Bladesinger.
Legendary Magic Items
- DMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. Unless you’re playing a Defender and actively trying to draw attacks away from your allies, this is absolutely amazing.
- DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. Attacks, saves, skills, etc. all benefit. However, most wizards rely mostly on spells which require saving throws so it’s not as beneficial as it would be for other characters. A Stone of Good Luck may be just as useful.
- GotG: Darkvision, see in magical darkness, a bonus to saves to maintain concentration, and mitigate 300gp of material component costs per day. This feels very tempting, but it’s just not good enough for this rarity. By this level, 300gp is a pittance, and you have access to magical options that make magical darkness much less of a problem.
- DMG: Given the choice, I would much rather have a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn’t provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to .
- DMG: Learn Wish and give this to someone in your party who can’t cast spells
so that they can use it to give everyone permanent damage resistance.
For more help with Wish, see my Practical Guide to Wish.
- DMG: Combine the benefits of a Very Rare spellcasting focus, a Barrier Tattoo (Rare), and a Mantle of Spell Resistance. Those are three absolutely fantastic items, and combining them on one item is spectacular.
- DMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn’t take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.
- BoMT: The third bullet is why you’re here. Force a creature to auto-fail a save up to twice per day. Perfect for all those awesome save-or-suck spells rendered useless by targeting Con saves.
- DMG: Mostly an upgrade from the Staff of Power, the Staff of the Magi is a +2 quarterstaff and adds +2 to spell attacks (though not to spell DC’s for some reason, so you may want another focus), but loses the Staff of Power’s AC and saving throw bonuses, though you do get Advantage on saves against spells. You get a massive pool of charges and 20 spells that you can cast, 6 of which can be cast without spending charges. You can also absorb spells which other creatures cast, allowing you to turn those spells into charges in the staff and recharge it faster than you could simply by waiting for dawn. This is a great way to recharge the staff before a long rest if you have allies whose spell slots would otherwise go unspent. Strangely, this mechanic allows you to absorb cantrips, but since they’re 0-level spells they don’t charge the staff. It’s like drinking an empty glass of water.
- DMG: In addition to serving as a spellbook and a casting focus, this allows you to cast one spell without spending a spell slot. There’s no restriction on the level of the spell, so in a practical sense you get to cast a 9th-level spell once per day for free as a Bonus Action with no somatic/verbal components. You don’t need to have the spell prepared, either, so you have access to everything in your spell book at a moment’s notice. Of course, realistically you’re going to cast Wish if you want anything except a 9th-level spell, so the ability to cast any spell in your spellbook only matters if you somehow find this below level 17.
Example Wizard Build – High Elf Wizard (Evoker)
Frankkóttir the High Elf School of Evocation Wizard
Evocation Wizard A slender figure sits hunched over a table in the corner, scribbling furiously into a thick tome, seemingly oblivious to your presence. The fluffy white cat curled up next to the book opens an eye to study you, before letting out an annoyed mewl. The figure jumps to their feet with surprise at the sound, much taller than you expected, their delicate high elven features at odds with their disheveled pale gold hair. From the state of their rumpled robes they seem to have been working for several hours, if not days, and had not been expecting interruption.
This is a “Staple Build”. This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.
By wizard standards, the evoker is simple. Blow stuff up, long rest, repeat. The biggest impediment to evokers is needing to overcome enemy resistances to various types of damage from their spells, and that’s easy to overcome by diversifying your spells.
For a more optimized example, see our School of Evocation Wizard Handbook.
We will assume the point buy abilities suggested above.
High Elf. High Elf is a spectacular option for the Wizard. The ability score increases line up nicely, and a free cantrip provides extra versatility at low levels where it is sorely needed. You also get proficiency with longbows, and with 16 Dexterity and proficiency you’re just as good with a longbow as anyone else, and 1d8+3 damage will be more damage than a cantrip at low levels.
Skills and Tools
The Wizard’s skill list is almost exclusively dominated by Intelligence-based skills, and that’s exactly what we want. Your party will look to you to know things about stuff, and you should meet that expectation as much as possible. You’ll get two more skills from your background, so try to find a background that lets you cover the knowledge skills which no one else in your party can cover. You also get Perception proficiency as a racial trait. Assuming that you take the Sage background as suggested below, I recommend that you take Investigation and Religion to start with the following proficiencies:
Acolyte and Sage both have things to offer. Sage is the go-to option for wizards, giving you two knowledge skills and two languages. Languages may not seem important with dumped Charisma, but it’s hard to read ancient tomes if you don’t know the language. Of course, you could cast Comprehend Languages as a ritual.
Acolyte gives you proficiency in Insight and Religion, both of which are on your skill list, but Insight should usually be left to someone with higher Wisdom if anyone else in the party has it. You also get two languages, but again: Comprehend Languages as a ritual.
We’ll use Sage for this build.
Intelligence is the only ability score that wizards really need, so once you hit 20 Intelligence you might consider exploring feats. Magic Initiate can get you some powerful options from other class’s spell lists, and Elemental Adept can help you focus on your favorite element without worrying as much about damage resistances. If you’re not ready for complicated feats but still don’t see ability score increases as appealing, try something simple like Skilled.
|Feat(s) and Features
|Notes and Tactics
– Acid Splash
– Chill Touch
– Ray of Frost
– Burning Hands
– Comprehend Languages (R)
– Detect Magic (R)
– Find Familiar (R)
– Mage Armor
– Magic Missile
|For your starting equipment, take a dagger, a component pouch or
spellcasting focus, either pack, and a spellbook.
The list of cantrips I’ve suggested include three offensive options, giving you good damage type coverage. Acid Splash requires a saving throw, while Chill Touch and Ray of Frost require attack rolls. Use Acid Splash on clustered enemies, on enemies within 5 ft. (you don’t care about Disadvantage on ranged attacks while adjacent to an enemy if you don’t make an attack roll), or enemies with problematically high AC, but Ray of Frost is your go-to offensive cantrip. A 10 ft. speed reduction can be a significant tactical advantage, especially if you position yourself so that enemies would need to Dash to reach you in a single turn.
I’ve notably skipped over Fire Bolt. Fire Bolt is the most damage (1d10) which you can get from a cantrip while remaining within the SRD. But at this level if all you want is damage you should grab a longbow. With 16 Dexterity, Fire Bolt would attack at +5 and deal 1d10 (avg. 5.5) damage, while a longbow will attack at +5 and deal 1d8+3 (avg. 7.5) damage and has considerably better range.
Because your spell slots are so limited at 1st level, we’ll lean hard on ritual spells, spending half of our free spellbook entries on ritual spells. Get a familiar as soon as possible, and use Detect Magic as a ritual whenever it could be useful. That leaves use three useful combat options: burning hands, mage armor, and magic missile. Mage Armor is a significant AC boost, bringing you to 16 AC which matches the AC of a fighter without a shield, but you’re still frail so standing behind someone durable is still better protection. Burning Hands is your go-to crowd control option, while Magic Missile is a reliable pile of damage at range.
Don’t forget Arcane Recovery. You only get to use it once per day, but it allows you to recover a few spell slots, which can be the difference between life and death in a full day of adventuring. Use it early, use it often.
|School of Evocation
– Identify (R)
|The “Savant” feature is a staple of every wizard school. So long as
you can find written spells to copy (which depends heavily on the
setting in which your campaign takes place), it’s often smarter to
spend gold to learn spells from your school while using your two free
spells at each level to get spells from other schools. However, the
point of staple builds is to emphasize simplicity and ease of access,
so I’ll continue to assume that you’re only getting the two free
spells per level.
Sculpt Spells is a crucial tactical option for evokers. The majority of the best evocation spells are area spells like Fireball, and when you drop big damage spells into a fight it typically means damaging your allies. Sculpt Spells largely removes that difficulty, and scaling the number of safe spaces based on the spell’s level means that as the area of effect of your spells gradually increases, you’ll be able to adequately protect your allies. However, it notably doesn’t work on yourself, so you can’t drop fireballs on yourself without taking damage.
At this level we pick up yet another ritual spell, but don’t expect to use Identify until you start finding magic items. If you know that your campaign doesn’t include magic items, get something else like Thunderwave. Shield adds another defensive option, allowing you to block an attack at the last second and potentially protecting you better than Mage Armor.
– Scorching Ray
|2nd-level spells give us more offensive options. Shatter is your go-to option whenever you can hit three or more targets. Two or more would be more damage than you can do with nearly any of your existing spells, but hitting two targets probably isn’t worth one of your two 2nd-level spell slots. Scorching Ray is a good single-target option, but expect to do partial damage because you’ll inevitably miss with some of the rays, so Magic Missile may actually be a better option.
|Ability Score Improvement ( 16 -> 18)
New Cantrips Known:
– Fire Bolt
– Flaming Sphere
– Misty Step
|4th level is typically boring, but there’s a lot going on here.
First, and most importantly, your Intelligence increases, raising your
spell attacks and your spell DCs. For the first time your cantrips are
more accurate than your longbow, and with Fire Bolt added to our
arsenal it may be worthwhile to use Fire Bolt. However, your longbow
will still deal more damage, so against foes with low AC I would lean
on your longbow first, and use Acid Splash or a leveled spell on
targets with high AC. We mostly want Fire Bolt for 5th level and
We’re notably not picking up any new evocation spells at this level. Flaming Sphere is a great option for long fights to stretch your spell slots, and it’s a great way to use your under-utilized bonus action. Misty Step is a crucial defensive option that gets you out of grapples, traps, etc.
|5th level brings the first cantrip damage improvement. Fire Bolt now
deals 2d10 damage (avg. 11), greatly exceeding your longbow, so it’s
finally time to set aside mundane weaponry.
3rd-level spells bring iconic options like Fireball and Lightning Bolt. Fireball is among the best spells in the game for its level, so I would recommend taking it even if we weren’t building an evoker. Fly provides some utility and mobility. We’ll skip lightning bolt because it’s really hard to hit more than two creatures with a line, and thanks to Sculpt Spells it’s easier to drop big AOEs over your allies.
– Dispel Magic
|Potent Cantrip is less helpful than you’d think. Acid Splash and
Poison Spray are the only wizard cantrips in the Basic Rules or the
SRD which calls for a saving throw. If you look beyond those confines
(and you should) you’ll find numerous excellent options like Frostbite
and Mind Sliver.
Our leveled spells at this level are boring, but extremely important. Counterspell allows you to shut down enemy spellcasters, while Dispel Magic removes numerous problematic magical effects. Both spells are crucial parts of your party’s arsenal at any level.
– Conjure Minor Elementals
– Wall of Fire
|The SRD contains very few 4th-level evocation spells, and most of them are bad. Wall of Fire stands out as a potent crowd control effect, but the other options aren’t worth a spell slot. Instead, we’ll look to other schools to expand our options. Conjure Minor Elementals gives us a versatile option for handling problematic encounters. Crowding a hall or small room with elementals can restrict enemy movement, providing a significant tactical advantage unless your enemies spend their turns attacking the elementals.
|Ability Score Improvement ( 18 -> 20)
– Stone Shape
8th level brings us our final Intelligence increase.
We still don’t have any good new evocations to pick up, so get some interesting options from other schools. Polymorph is a powerful and versatile spell that’s equal parts buff and save-or-suck. Stone Shape is a generally useful spell that provides a lot of utility in a game that involves a lot of dungeons and caves.
– Arcane Hand
– Wall of Force
|Note that “Arcane Hand” is the SRD name for “Bigby’s Hand”.
Arcane Hand is a great spell that provides much of the utility of a high-Strength ally for the 1-minute duration of the spell. Clenched Fist and Grasping Hand are your go-to options, but don’t overlook the other options.
Wall of Force is basically cheating. Almost nothing can break it, and with a 10-minute duration you can easily entrap the biggest thing in a fight while you go and deal with its friends or while you and your friends heal, buff, and set up prepared actions. Against especially large creatures you can raise the dome off the floor enough that you can still target the victim’s feet while the victim is unable to escape.
New Cantrip Known:
– Cone of Cold
|Empowered Evocation provides a significant damage boost, especially
for our cantrips. Fire Bolt goes from 2d10 (avg. 11) to 2d10+5 (avg.
16), increasing its damage output by nearly 50%. The damage boost also
notably applies to all of our AOE spells like Acid Splash and
Fireball, dramatically boosting your output when you can apply the
bonus to multiple foes.
Cone of Cold is a decent spell, but it’s rarely better than fireball. The difference between 8d6 and 8d8 damage is only an average of 8 damage, and the ability to cast fireball from a distance will often make it the superior option. We mostly want Cone of Cold for when we get Overchannel.
– Chain Lightning
|Immediately after receiving Empowered Evocation, our cantrips get
another damage boost. Fire Bolt now deals 3d10+5 (avg. 21.5),
dramatically exceeding the maximum damage we can deal with our
Even with the advantage of Sculpt Spell, it can still be difficult to throw around AOE spells like Fireball without damaging things you would prefer not to damage (like the wooden building you’re in). Chain Lightning provides a convenient way to damage numerous foes and does an impressive amount of damage.
Sunbeam allows you to spend a whole minute firing lines that do as much damage as lightning bolt and potentially blind targets. It’s an exceptionally efficient use of a spell slot, and it’s one of very few ways that a wizard can deal radiant damage.
|Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 14 -> 16)
– Flesh to Stone
– Globe of Invulnerability
|We’ve already got the best 6th-level evocation spells, so let’s get some other options. Flesh to Stone is a great save-or-suck option, and Globe of Invulnerability is an excellent defense should you encounter enemy spellcasters.
– Delayed Blast Fireball
|Delayed Blast Fireball is admittedly difficult to use. 12d6 is a good
pile of damage, but you get Overchannel next level, and using
Overchannel with Cone of Cold will deal much more damage. Save Delayed
Blast Fireball for situations where it will have time to charge. Long
encounters, encounters with enemies running into the area, or ambush
scenarios where you can charge the fireball before the fight
Forcecage is essentially a better version of Wall of Force’s hemisphere option. With a longer duration and no concentration component, you can drop it on an enemy and go about your business while they’re in “time out”. In a pinch, you could cast it over yourself and your party to give yourself a safe place to take a short rest.
– Plane Shift
|Overchannel dramatically improves the effectiveness of your low-level
spells, and it’s the biggest reason why we learned Cone of Cold. Be
very cautious about using it more than once, however. Even the second
use can easily kill you (10d12 averages to 65 damage, and at this
level you have something like 100 hit points), and your lower-level
spells likely aren’t powerful enough that they’re a better option than
a cantrip, even while overchanneled.
7th-level spells introduce real long-distance travel options. Between Plane Shift and Teleport you can go basically anywhere in the multiverse. You won’t need these options frequently, but you have better access to them than any other spellcast, so your party will likely rely on you.
– Incendiary Cloud
|Incendiary Cloud isn’t an evocation spell, but it’s a fantastic
damage option nonetheless. With a 1-minute duration, 10d8 damage adds
up quickly. Combined with Forecage, you can easily kill groups of
powerful enemies with two spells and some patience while they’re
helpless to escape or resist.
Sunburst, while less interesting, is no less effective. It has fantastic range, a massive AOE, decent damage, and it blinds targets that fail the saving throw. Throw it at the beginning of a fight and it can easily win the encounter for your party.
|Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18)
|There are surprisingly few 8th-level evocation spells, so we’ll grab some good options from other schools. Feeblemind shuts down enemy spellcasters who aren’t Intelligence-based, and Maze puts enemies with low Intelligence into an inescapable demiplane for up to 10 minutes while you fight their friends. Unfortunately, Maze requires Concentration so you can’t set up Delayed Blast Fireball while you have a target trapped in a Maze.
– Meteor Swarm
|You get just 1 9th-level spell slot per day, so you really need to
pick the best options available to you. Meteor Swarm is a great go-to
damage option, dealing a truly horrifying 40d6 (avg. 70) damage in 4
40-ft radius spheres. You can destroy a castle with that.
Beyond Meteor Swarm, you would be a fool to not learn Wish. It’s the best spell in the game even if you never use its more powerful options.
This level also brings the final cantrip damage boost, raising Fire Bolt to an impressive 4d10+5 (avg. 26).
|Shield is basically free at this point, which means a near-perpetual +5 to AC and immunity to magic missile.
Shatter becomes an inexpensive option for handling groups of enemies, dramatically outpacing Acid Splash’s number of targets and roughly matching its damage with a much more useful damage type.
Selecting spells known at this level is surprisingly difficult. Selecting more 9th-level spells is fine, but since you can never cast more than two in a day it seems wasteful to learn more than a handful. Pick up whatever other 9th-level spells you want to diversify your options, but strongly consider picking up lower-level spells which you passed over previously.
|Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 18 -> 20)
– Spells Known:
More of the same. Learn more spells, get more hit points.
|Signature spell is disappointing for 20th level. Sure, two free spell slots of any level is great, but the ability to prepare two additional spells is probably more impactful because it means that you can prepare more spells to diversify your options for the day.