DnD 5e - Practical Guide to Wish
Last Updated: April 6th, 2021
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.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
- : Good options.
- : 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, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I 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 this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
So, you've made it. You've kept a fragile class alive for long enough to unlock 9th level spells and, being the wise arcane caster that you are, you have learned Wish. The temptation to powertrip and immediately wish for something exotic and break the game is strong, but 5th edition has put an enormous and random constraint on the most powerful spell in the game. So, given that, what do you do with it?
Who Can Cast Wish?
It's a short list:
- Bards (via Magical Secrets at level 18)
- Clerics (Arcana Domain thanks to the Arcane Mastery subclass feature)
- Warlocks (The Genie patron only)
- People with magic items:
- Efreeti Bottle (If the user is lucky)
- Luck Blade
- Ring of Three Wishes
Should you ever use Wish for anything other than spell duplication?
The short answer is a question: is the thing you're about to wish for worth never casting Wish again to you? Then go for it. A 33% chance is small enough to not feel like a guarantee but is large enough that it should be enormously impactful to the way you use it. In a game where character death is fixable by spells less powerful than Wish and anything else only matters to the story, wishing for something beyond the explicit text of the spell should be a step you only take because it fits the story because it places a great deal of stress on the DM and because it has immense potential to derail the game, so don't be surprised if your wish is granted in ways you might not have anticipated.
With that out of the way, we look at the meat of the issue: how can you use Wish to cast spells better? Wish lets you do three important things that we'll dive into:
- Cast spells you don't otherwise have access to
- Cast spells without meeting requirements
- Cast spells as an action that would otherwise take longer to cast
Rules note: while it isn't specified in the text of Wish, according to Jeremy Crawford "A spell you duplicate with wish can be cast at a higher level, as long as that level is no higher than 8th.". This means that not only do you get to cast spells with the above advantages, every one of them should be cast at 8th level.
Casting spells which you don't otherwise have access to
Most things that can cast Wish can't also cast staple divine spells like Resurrection. Cleric died? Wish them back to life. Niche utility spell didn't make the list but is absolutely critical to the moment? Duplicate it and enjoy.
I'm not going to attempt to recreate the work of all of the class spell list breakdowns here, but if you have Wishes to spare, just comb through RPGBOT's spell list breakdowns for high-level blue-rated spells and see if any of them sound like good ideas at the time.
Casting spells without meeting requirements
This is a very strangely worded descriptor, but the writers go on to clarify that they mean, for example, costly material components, which is mostly what I'm going to cover, but I'll touch on this again below.
As previously mentioned, casting something like Resurrection without expending the material components is just as attractive as being able to cast it as a wizard in the first place. But there are plenty of spells that are more expensive, and since costly material components are often a way to keep players from casting those spells frequently, Wish's abiliity to remove that limitation is very powerful.
The most expensive spell is Sequester at 5,000 gp. This isn't really a spell you'd want to use regularly, but having the ability to fake it is nice. A noteworthy use is effectively destroying Artifacts you don't want to exist anymore without really destroying them. Simply set the condition to be something like "When entropy ceases to exist" or anything else equally impossible.
Clone comes in at the next-highest total cost of 3,000 gp. This is where things start to get weird. As a reminder, Wish specifies that "You don't need to meet any requirements in that spell, including costly components. The spell simply takes effect." Since the spell's effect is to create the clone and not the container, lacking any DM adjudication your clone just starts growing... wherever. I recommend your own demiplane, unless you've spent a bunch of time setting up a permanent, magically-defended home base.
Clone is an important option because it makes you functionally immortal. Clone yourself as young as you like (probably somewhere after your awkward teenage years, but before the physical ails of middle age set in), and you can re-live your physical prime with all the capabilities of a wizard decades or centuries older than your body's "age". Either wait to die of natural causes (or of adventuring-related causes), or if you get impatient and want a younger body you can always leave your gear at home and teleport somewhere that will be instantly lethal like the sun. You
Create Magen comes in next at 2000 total cost. Wishing yourself up a small army of pets is a fun idea, but they're not going to be functionally very useful as guards against anything except low-level nuisances (adventurers, petty burglars, etc.) given that the best you can get is a CR 3 which would likely die accidentally to anything you're likely to be fighting. If you just want servants, there are likely more time-efficient options.
Wish notably doesn't negate the hit point reduction when you cast Create Magen, but it can remove it, so if you want magen you can create an army of them and Wish yourself back to full maximum hit points.
At 1500 total cost we run into an immediate game balance problem with Simulacrum. The ability to create a simulacrum of yourself, for free, as an action, which has an identical stat block to you except for being a construct and having half your hitpoints means that the very first thing you do as soon as you learn Wish is to use it to copy Simulacrum and then have your simulacrum Wish for all the things you weren't willing to in case you hit that 33%. The simulacrum is, by definition, a separate creature from you and a new creature each time one is created by the spell, so if it hits that 33%, you just Wish up another one tomorrow and have it keep casting for you.
Take a couple weeks when you first learn Wish to:
- Have your entire party become resistant to all damage (one type per casting).
- Summon enormous piles of money and crash every economy you come across (25,000gp at a time).
- Run a Telepathy with the simulacrum and have it be your lab rat to try out other extravagant wishes.
Truly, the only reason I can think any DM would allow this is because, by the time you can cast Wish, you're already at the point that very little is challenging if you're sufficiently prepared.
Jeremy Crawford has answered several questions about Simulacrum on Twitter, and has clarified that the intent of the spell is that you "take a snapshot of that creature's game statistics at the completion of the 12-hour casting, and those become the statistics of the simulacrum. He also suggested that corrections to Simulacrum would make it into Errata in a separate tweet, but it's been 2+ years and that hasn't happened, so either WotC forgot or Mr. Crawford changed his mind, because everything above works RAW and short of Crawford's tweets there's no indication that RAI is different.
But even if you apply Crawford's proposed fix, there's still an easyily-abused Simalcrum+Wish loop. Simulacrum costs 1,500 gp to cast. Wish can produce an item worth up to 25,000 gp. Create one Simulacrum and have it wish for an item which you then sell for components at a profit of 23,500 gp (enough for just over almost 16 additional simulacrums), then use the additional value to safely abuse Wish.
If you've kept reading past this point, we now start to get into how truly game-breaking "you do not need to meet the requirements" truly is. Use Wish to mimic Dream of the Blue Veil and force your campaign into some random setting. No magic item or person from it required. Copy Find the Path without needing an item from the location. The spell is now much better. Cast Plane Shift without needing rods attuned to specific planes. Just pick one and go.
Casting spells as an action that would normally take longer to cast
The ability to change every spell's casting time to 1 Action is very powerful because it allows quick access to spells with problematically-long casting times at a moment's notice.
The spell with the longest casting time is Hallow. Being able to prevent yourself and possibly your allies from being harmed by 5 creature types which make up a good chunk of the things that would be a threat to you at this level as an Action is incredibly powerful.
The benefits of Simulacrum are discussed above, but note that the target doesn't need to be willing. If you can get within reach (or send your familiar) you can cast Simulacrum on any beast or humanoid. Cast it on major NPCs (especially if they're your enemies) and get a pet copy of them. Either use them to defeat and supplant the original, or escape with them and question them for information about the NPC's secrets.
At an 8 hour cast time we have Awaken. With enough time, dedication, and clones, you could have every tree and bush on the planet sentient and friendly to you. While, again, this is only marginally useful in combat, it certainly makes my conclusion more interesting.
Casting this spell as an Action as an 8th-level spell is functionally a better (if creature-type-limited) Dominate Monster if you're creative enough, but it targets a Charisma save, making it valuable against things with poor Charisma saves. Since Wish reduces the casting time but not the duration, you can teleport or plane shift to the creature you want to bind, hit them with Planar Binding before they know what's going on, then teleport back to safety before their friends know what happened. Just be sure to mark the 180-day duration's expiration on your calendar or you're in for a nasty surprise when it expires.
Also present at 1 hour are Resurrection or Reincarnate if the creature died of old age or you're feeling petty and want to drag someone back form the dead as a different race. Note that Wish doesn't remove the side-effects of casting Resurrection, so the target is still penalized for several days and if you bring back a long-dead target you'll be penalized until you finish a long rest.
Mirage Arcane comes in at 10 minutes normally and can be used creatively if that's reduced to a single round. Notably it doesn't allow a save, and allows you to do things like drop an invading army into an illusory-but-apparently-real-enough crevasse which may well kill them.
Down in the 1 minute casts we have Create Undead which also interestingly no longer needs corpses or onyx when we cast it this way, so you effectively turn Create Undead into a summoning spell with a permanent duration.
A fantastic tactical use of Leomund's Tiny Hut in combat could very well give your party the time they need to take a moment and recover, or even end a fight entirely as it simply prevents your opponents from reaching you.
Conclusion: So what do I do with Wish?
Have a little fun, and then retire. With a combination of Mighty Fortress, Druid Grove, Temple of the Gods, Hallow, Forbiddance, Private Sanctum, and Guards and Wards, you can take a little slice of creation and make it so permanently yours that very little short of a deity will be able to so much as knock on your door unless you want it to. Awaken all the nearby plants so you can have conversation partners as you while away the millenia growing clones and wondering why anyone ever resorted to something as awful as lichdom to achieve immortality.
Advice for DMs
What do I do if my player casts an insanely long wish to avoid consequences?
Set a 6-second time limit to speak the Wish aloud. It needs to fit within one round, and the spell clearly states that the wish is spoken aloud. If they can't clearly state the Wish in six seconds, it's invalid.
As a fun piece of flavor to really make the gravity of the situation hit home, I ask my party for 60 seconds of complete silence when anyone casts Wish, and then have the player give me a single sentence when the time is up and go from there.
What do I do if my player casts Wish for something other than a listed effect?
A very good question. I have adjudicated a Wish twice ever so I wouldn't call myself an expert, but to deviate from most of the content in this article, and in keeping with the previous section, do whatever best fits the story.
At the end of a years-long Rise of the Runelords campaign which I ran, the players accidentally broke Golarion in a way that would have forced a radical change to any subsequent content if any had been planned, because a player wished for something outside the realm of what a spell can do. To the tune of ":Destroy all mind-controlled [monster type] in the area." Well, that area was a dormant volcano. Except now, due to the power of Wish, it was no longer dormant and was, in fact, actively erupting. He managed to teleport the party into low orbit pretty quickly so they could watch the destruction of the entire final dungeon unfold, leaving two rooms floating in midair for them to continue the story.