Pathfinder 2e - The Wizard Handbook
Last Updated: September 12th, 2019
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : 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.
The Wizard has been my favorite class since 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons. Powerful, versatile, and thematically interesting, the Wizard goes out into the world to test their wits and their knowledge against whatever challenge the multiverse has to offer.
The Wizard is the iconic arcane spellcaster. With a broad and diverse spell list, the Wizard can solve nearly any problem magically. In a party, your role is defined by the spells you employ. You can serve as a Blaster with area damage spells like fireball, a Defender by summoning creatures to stand between your party and your enemies, a Face by enchanting other creatures, a Librarian with your vast Intelligence and ample skills, a Scout with divination spells and stealth options like Invisibility, a Striker with single-target spells like Disintegrate and Power Word Kill, a Support caster with a wide range of buffs, debuffs, and area control spells, and a Utility caster with access to all manner of spells for solving the world's mundane problems with magic.
In truth, there is very little that the Wizard can't do, and while it's not the uber-class that it was in previous editions, the Wizard is still a profoundly capable and versatile class. However, with great versatility comes great complexity. Playing a wizard involves a lot of planning, tracking, and management. You can keep the class simple by playing an Evoker and solving your problems by blowing them up, but many wizards will have a large suite of specialized tools and will need to choose from a long list of options to employ in any given situation. If you're afraid of "analysis paralysis", consider other class options like the Sorcerer.
Wizard Class Features
Key Ability: Intelligence is the Wizard's primary ability score, and like any spellcaster it's used for your Spell Attacks and for your Spell DCs. Those are two of your most important stats, so keep your Intelligence as high as you can get it.
: 6+Con hit points. Fortunately you have plenty of room to boost your ability scores so your Constitution bonus can compensate.
Initial Proficiencies: .
- : Trained at 1st level, and it maxes out at Expert at 11th level. Expect to rely on allies for Perception checks, and strongly consider Incredible Initiative if you don't want to go late in the turn order in every fight.
- : Only one good saving throw. Will is a great option, but only one good saving throw is still a serious handicap, and it never improves past Master. Your other saving throws will also increase to expert, but no further. You can take the Canny Accumen feat, but that won't get you past Expert until 17th level, so you'll spend most of your career with absolutely dismal saving throws compared to your allies.
- : Arcana, plus 2+int Trained skills at 1st level, for a total of 3+. That's standard, and with 18 Intelligence at 1st level you'll have plenty of trained skills. You should get more than anyone except the Alchemist and the Rogue.
- : 5 weapons plus unarmed strikes. A dagger is your best weapon option. Don't expect to use any weapon except in the most unusual circumstances.
- : No armor proficiencies, and your proficiency in Unarmored Defense never increases past Expert. Expect to rely on spells like Mage Armor, and be sure that you have nice sturdy friends to hide behind.
- Spells: Standard progression for every spellcaster with the exception of the Warpriest Cleric.
- Heightened Spells: Heightening spells are an important mechanic in Pathfinder 2e. Important spells like Mage Armor scale with spell level, allowing them to stay relevant long after you learned them. Since wizards don't use a Spell Repertoire, you only need to learn a spell once, then you can prepare it at any level that you can cast.
- : Fantastic every time, on any character, in any amount. Wizards can prepare 5 cantrips, and they start with 10 in their spellbook so you have lots of room to customize your arsenal every day.
- : Your spellbook is your most valuable posession. Guard it jealously; if you lose it, you'll be unable to prepare spells. Also, expect to buy several over the course of your career. They have a finite number of pages, and as you gain levels your spells will take up increasing numbers of pages. If you add spells to your spellbook beyond the free 2 spells that you gain at each level, you'll exacerbate this problem. Fortunately, after very low levels the cost of extra spell books will be negligible.
Arcane School: See "Subclasses - Arcane School", below.
: Recast any one spell you prepared today. This is hugely useful, and it makes it easier to prepare a diverse array of spells rather than preparing Fireball 8 times.
Arcane Thesis: Arcane thesis adds an extra mechanic to your Wizard. While this option isn't as defining as your Arcane School, it's a helpful extra ability which will remain useful at every level.
- : Familiars are really good, but their capabilities are limited by their number of abilities. Normally you only get two, so this triples the number of abilities which you can give your familiar. You can also take the Enhance Familiar feat to add another 2.
- : More class feats is always great, but the level limitations on the second feat means that you'll probably end up learning a metamagic feat then retraining it once you can take it with Metamagical Experimentation. It also seems unlikely that you'll change out your chosen metamagic feat frequently. Changing out metamagic feats to prepare for expected challenges doesn't make as much sense as changing your spells for the day.
- : This is a gamble. Higher-level spells grow dramatically in power, but it's hard to say if a small number of higher-level spell slots are better than the regular spell slot arrangement. If you take this option, expect to burn a big spell or two right at the beginning of a fight in a way that will define the outcome of the fighter, then expect to fall back on cantrips.
- : If you can't decide what to choose for your Arcane Thesis, Spell Substitution is a great option. Wizards are generally stuck with the options that they picked at the beginning of a day, and you can rarely predict your needs with perfect accuracy. This is great for when you encounter unexpected obstables and don't have time to spend 8 hours resting in order to re-prepare spells.
Wizard Feats: See Wizard feats, below.
Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.
General Feats: Standard.
Skill Increases: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.
Ability Boosts: Standard.
Ancestry Feats: Standard.
: More saves is always great, but this is as high as you ever get.
: Standard and essential for spellcasters.
: More saves is always great, but this is as high as you ever get.
: Perception is absolutely crucial, but this is the best you will ever get without spending General Feats.
: You should never need this.
: More AC is great, but this is the best you will ever get.
: You should never need this.
: Standard and essential for spellcasters.
: Fantastic, but it comes online very late in the game.
: 10th-level spells are crazy. You can spend a class feat to get another, and you can use Drain Bonded Item to re-cast a prepared 10th-level spell, but it's unlikley that you'll ever cast more than 3 10th-level spells in a day.
: Standard and essential for spellcasters.
Subclasses - Arcane School
The ability to re-cast one spell of every spell level that you can cast means that you get as many leveled spells in total as a Specialist, but you're more limited in the number of individual spells that you can prepare. You get an extra 1st-level Wizard feat, and more class feats are always a good thing, and you get access to several feats like Bond Conservation and Universal Versatility.
You choose to be a specialist for two reasons: Focus spells, and an extra spell slot at each spell level. The extra spell slot is limited to your school, but many schools have options at every level which are good enough to prepare every day. However, because your extra spell slot is limited and you can't re-cast expended spells (unless you prepared duplicates), you can't match the versatility of the Generalist. Requiring you to spend a Class Feat to get your second school spell seems like an unnecessary tax, so if your school's second school spell is bad don't waste a feat on it.
The Wizard's ability scores are dead simple: You need Intelligence for your spells, and you need Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom for your defenses.
: Dump. Wizards have no need for Strength. You're not carrying heavy equipment, and you're not wearing armor.
: AC and Reflex saves. You'll eventually want at least 16, but don't bother getting more than 20.
: Hit points and Fortitude saving throws.
: Your defining ability score.
: Perception and Will saves.
: Probably a dump stat unless you want to use your numerous skills to play the party's Face, or if you want to use Demoralize with your third action every turn.
An Intelligence boost is crucial, but since Free Ability Boosts are part of every Ancestry that's easy to accomplish. Bonuses to other important ability scores are helpful, but not crucial, so Ancestry Feats are a
: The Dwarf's Ability Boosts work great if you put the Free increase into Intelligence, but Darf Ancestry Feats offer very little for the Wizard. Strongly consider Adopted Ancestry.
: The Elf's Ability Boosts are great, but a Constitution Flaw is really problematic, so you may want to use the Voluntary Flaws rules to offset the Constitution penalty. Seer Elf gets you Detect Magic for free, and Otherwordly Magic gets you an extra Arcane cantrip (though it's an innate spell so it's still Charisma-based), so you can expand your cantrip options, but the Gnome can get cantrips from other spell lists, which dramatically expands your options.
: Despite the lack of a fixed Intelligence increase, the Gnome works surprisingly well if you put your Free Increase into Intelligence. Gnome Ancestry Feats can get you automatically-scaling Lore skills, extra cantrips, a familiar, and a few other excellent options. Two of the Gnome's Heritages give you additional cantrips, but since they're innate spells they'll be Charisma-based, so look for utility options rather than offensive ones, especially from other spellcasting traditions which offer spells that the Wizard can't normally select.
: With your Free increase in Intelligence, the Goblin's ability increases look similar to the Gnome's. Burn It! is a great option for blasters, and you could make good use of Very Sneaky and Very Very Sneaky, but those don't specifically supplement your capabilities as a wizard so I'm not sure if they're better than what you could get from Adopted Ancestry.
: Workable ability boosts, and Halfling Luck is good on literally every character. Cultural Adaptability can get you Burn It! from the Goblin Ancestry Feats, too. Unfortunately, none of the heritages look especially helpful.
: Take the Voluntary Flaws to dump Strength and Charisma, and you can do +2 to Dex, Con, and Int (or switch Dex or Con to Wis if you'd like). There isn't anything you need from Versatile Heritage, so consider other options. If you take Half-Elf you can easily take multiclass archetype feats for other spellcasting classes. Adapted Cantrip looks tempting, but it's only useful for offensive options and wizards already get the best offensive options.
All that you need from your background is Intelligence, and since every background includes a Free Ability Boost, you can always get the Intelligence boost. Look for backgrounds with useful skills or which get you a skill feat that you had your eyes on.
(Dex): Surprisingly important because it's used for maneuvering while flying.
- : Being knocked prone while flying is an easy way to counter flying creatures, and enemies can do it just as easily to you as you can do it to them. Cat Fall will reduce the effective distance you've fallen, allowing you to take less damage from a fall. However, the effects of Cat Fall scale based on your Proficiency level, so it may not be worth the skill feat unless you plan to increase your proficiency in Acrobatics.
(Int): Essential, and you get it for free.
- : If you can make Detect Magic free, you should cast it frequently any time that there's even a remote chance that you'll encounter magic. You're going to maximize Arcana anyway, so this will get better as you gain levels. Of course, Detect Magic is a Cantrip which you could get by several means, and normal Cantrip scaling will be faster than waiting to become Legendary in Arcana.
- : Wizards can, in theory, buy access to every spell on their spell list. Using downtime to reduce or even eliminate the cost to learn new spells can eventually save you a significant amount of gold, though you'll give up time that you could spend crafting things.
- : Your Intelligence will always exceed your Wisdom, so your Arcana will always exceed your Nature and Religion, so at the very least this is a numeric boost to those skills. More importantly, you don't need to spend Skill Increases on Nature, Occultism, or Religion.
- (Str): Strength is your dump stat.
- (Int): You're probably the smartest person in the party, and someone in the party needs it to handle magic runes. Also, Scroll Savant is really good.
- (Cha): Wizards are not a great Face since they have no dependence on Charisma.
- (Cha): Wizards are not a great Face since they have no dependence on Charisma.
- (Cha): Casting a spell is typically a 2-Action Activity, which means that in many rounds you'll have a spare Action and not much to do with it. In those situations, Demoralize is a great use of an Action. However, that spare action may also be important for the Sustain a Spell action.
- (Int): You have the Intelligence to back up Lore, so pick up a very different Lore skills.
- (Wis): You'll have enough Wisdom to make Medicine viable, but hopefully you'll be in a party with someone else who can cover it so that you can focus on Intelligence-based skills.
- (Wis): Despite being Wisdom-based, Nature may be an important skill for the Wizard so that you can identify spells being cast by other spellcasters.
(Int): On par with Arcana, and you have plenty of Intelligence to make it work.
- : Most enemies won't be able to identify your magic, and the few that can will rarely care.
- (Cha): There is no way for the Wizard to make use of this short of things like the Goblin Song feat.
- (Wis): Despite being Wisdom-based, Religion may be an important skill for the Wizard so that you can identify spells being cast by other spellcasters.
- (Int): The closest thing you'll get to a Face skill.
- (Dex): Never a bad choice, but don't expect to be good at it.
- (Wis): Too situation.
- (Dex): Solve these problems with magic, or leave it to someone who focuses on Dexterity.
General Skill Feats
- : Depending on your campaign, crafting during downtime can be a huge asset. But if your campaign rarely includes downtime in somewhere suitable to crafting, you'll be fine without this.
: With high Intelligence, passable Wisdom, and easy access to spellcasting-related skills, the Wizard is perhaps the best-suited character to identifying enemy spells. You also have access to Counterspell and other means to counteract magic, so being able to identify spells as a Reaction can be a powerful tool against enemy spellcasters.
- : Using a Free Action means that you can identify spells multiple time between turns, which is crucial against multiple enemy spellcasters or if you need your Reaction for something else.
- : Countering enemy spells is great, but you need to have that same spell prepared justo have the opportunity. It's hard enough when you have a spell repertoire and can burn an appropriate spell slot, but when you're a prepared caster your ability to counter spells drops precipitously as you go through the day casting spells.
- : Too situational. A spell component pouch is not a significant burden unless your DM is explicitly working to make spellcasting components a challenge.
- Practical Guide to Familiars. : Familiars are really good, and no one is better at familiars than the Wizard. For help with your familiar, see my
- : See "Focus Spells", below. Only take this if you want to take Universal Versatility.
- : Wonderful if you like touch spells, but there aren't enough touch spells to justify the feat when you can choose Familiar and use the Spell Delivery ability to accomplish the same thing.
- : Essential for blasters. Even a minor boost could mean one or two additional targets with a single spell, which can dramatically improve how much you get out of your spell slots.
- : You only get to prepare 5 cantrips, and at low levels that's not a lot of options when you only have a few spell slots to throw around. At higher levels you might retrain this when you've got more leveled spells to rely on.
- : Situational.
- Practical Guide to Familiars. : Familiars are really good, and expanding their limited number of abilities can make them even better. For advice on what to do with the extra abilities, see my
- : Wizards are terrible at using weapons. Adding a d6 of damage won't change that. This is, at best, an option for multiclass archetype.
- : 1 extra Focus Point per day. You can get that from Familiar.
- : Still situational, but at least you don't need to make a Deception check with your garbage Charisma.
- : Most spells you cast offensively will allow a saving throw, and high saving throws can make you significantly less effective. Keep in mind, however, that this only applies to Status Bonuses to saving throws.
- : An extremely situational feat with a 1 in 4 success rate.
- : The effectiveness varies by school. See "Focus Spells", below.
- : Not essential, but another spell slot is never a bad thing, and the benefits will scale as you gain access to more powerful spell slots. Remember that you can use Drain Bonded Item once for each level of spell which you can cast, so this will give you as many as 8 additional spell slots per day once you can cast 10th-level spells. The only problem is that using this will eat your actions for most of 2 turns, which isn't always something you can afford to do. Consider using this to cast long-duration buff and utility spells outside of combat when you have plenty of time to plan what you want to cast and don't need to worry about things like running away from ghouls and other unpleasantness.
- : Many of the 1st-level Focus Spells are very good, and you can switch between them any time you Refocus, which potentially means trying a new spell every time you get into a fight.
- : Crucial for Evokers, but you can always change tactics and cast spells which don't deal energy damage.
- : Even though it's only once per day, this is still really good. Most spells have a 2-Action casting time, so getting two spells out in a single turn means that you're doing the most important part of two turns in a single turn.
- : At the bare minimum, this is two more spell slots every day. But you can also give these to allies, allowing them to cast spells without you doing it for them. This is especially useful for spells that target the caster but which might be dangerous for you to use.
- : Finally a way to make Counterspelling even remotely effective! It only took 11 levels after you considered Counterspell. This is great motivation to learn every spell you possibly can. The prepared spell you sacrifice doesn't need to be the same spell level as the spell you're countering. The spells do need to share one trait (the spellcasting tradition doesn't count), but that's a laughably easy requirement to meet since there are only 7 schools of magic, and the school is a trait on each spell.
- : Having Detect Magic running constantly is great, but it's also a Cantrip so you can keep it running constantly everywhere except in combat without difficulty. Using Detect Magic in combat is uncommon.
- : If you're relying on Focus Points in any significant way, you need this. The rules for Refocus are written specifically so that you can't Refocus multiple times in succession: After you regain a Focus Point by any means, you must spend a Focus Point again before you can Refocus. So: If you have a Focus Pool larger than one point, you almost certainly need this feat. Unfortunately the Wizard doesn't have a way to recover three Focus Points while Refocusing.
- : If you're going to counter spells, you're probably countering something offensive and dangerous enough to justify spending a spell slot to counter it. If that's the case, turning it back on the caster is really great.
- : Another free spell per day. Not nearly as good as Bond Conservation or Scroll Savant, unfortunately.
- : If you rely on spells which require you to sustain them as an Action (entirely possible at this level), this could be a free action every turn. Get a bunch of spells going, sustain two or three, then roll them into a fight and wreck things without casting more spells.
- : Situationally useful, and whether or not you can use this effectively depends heavily on what spells you chose to learn and which ones you generally prepare.
- : That's a massive amount of versatility, but I don't know if it's worth such a high-level class feat. At this level you can afford cart loads of scrolls to cover all of those situational spells that you would use this to cast.
- : Limiting the spell to spells without a duration means that blast spells like Fireball are your best options. Sure, recharging a spell slot is always great, but by this level you have 9th-level spells and your 4th-level spells probably stopped being a go-to offensive option a very long time ago.
- : The coolest thing you will ever do is to cast a 10th-level spell. You get one slot (2 if you're a specialist, and you can re-use it if you're a generalist), so this doubles how many times you can do the coolest thing you class is capable of doing.
- : Really tempting, but there just aren't enough good metamagic feats to make this worthwhile.
- : Casting two spells at the same time has a lot of potential, but I haven't found any combinations which are good enough to give up another 10th-level spell slot.
- : Wizards have poor saves and poor Perception. The only problem with this feat is that you can't take it more than once.
- : Casting an area control spell before anyone else acts can win a fight before it begins, so rolling well on initiative is often crucial for spellcasters.
- : Wizards have few hit points, so more never hurt, but you should also be working really hard to avoid being targeted by things that deal damage.
- : Crossbows are expensive, you're not very good with them, and it takes an action to load so you can't fire them every round while casting spells in most cases.
- : Your best weapon option, but do your best to never actually use it.
- : Basically just a fancy outfit that you can apply magic runes to. Mage Armor is probably enough, but if you want property runes you'll need a permanent suit of "armor". Don't worry about the Dexterity Cap, either; if you're exceeding 20 Dexterity you're probably doing something unusual.
Wizard Focus Spells
- : The bonus isn't significant, the radius is too small and grows too slowly, and you need to commit an action every turn to sustain the spell.
- : The biggest problem with temporary damage resistances is that you typically need to guess what type of resistance you need. This removes that challenge, and the damage resistance is both good and scales with level, so this will remain a great option at any level.
- : A +1 bonus for a full minute is enough to make a difference for a summoned creature, but the action economy here isn't as good as it looks. Even thought Augment Summoning only takes one Action, you're probably spending an Action to maintain the spell which summoned the creature you're targeting. So unless you have Quickened Casting or Effortless Concentration, you're left with a single Action on your turn. That probably means that you won't be casting a spell since so few spells have a 1-Action casting time.
- : Cheap, easy, short-range teleportation. Unfortunately it has the Somatic trait so you might not be able to use it while restrained.
- : Unfortunately, you can't use this on attack rolls or flat checks, but even so it's still good. You could use this before an ally makes a risky skill check like disarming a trap, or you could use this while an ally is trying to resist a problematic ongoing effect. The biggest difficulty is simply knowing when to use it. Because the effect ends at then end of your next turn you can use it for your own benefit, but targeting yourself doesn't simplify the issue of knowing when to cast it.
- : Clairvoyance takes a full minute to cast and lasts 10 minutes; Vigilant Eye takes an action to cast and lasts an hour. I don't know if it's always useful, but if you want to sit around while your party Refocuses you can use this to keep watch while you recover your Focus Points.
- : There's an obvious comparison between Force Bolt and Magic Missile. Force Bolt is cast as a single action, which makes it useful to cast alongside other spells which typically take two actions. However, the damage isn't great. You get 1d4+1 at every odd-numbered spell level, so it will never be a significant amount of damage on its own. Magic Missile, by comparison, can be cast as 1, 2, or 3 actions, and you get an extra 1d4+1 bolt per action. So there's a lot of overlap, and the spells are functionally identical if you use the 1-action option. But that's probably not the right comparison to make. Instead, compare Force Bolt to a cantrip. The damage dice scale at the same rate, and eventually Force Bolt's flat damage will exceed the ability bonus to cantrip damage, but the real appeal is the 1-Action casting time. You can have at most 3 Focus Points, which means potentially three extra cantrips worth of damage early in a fight when a little extra damage can be the most impactful. No one else can cast two offensive spells in a single turn until Quickened Casting comes online at 10th level, giving you a notable edge over other spellcasters.
- : This is a big pile of damage, but the 10-foot range is a serious problem for a wizard.
- : A great option if you're stuck in melee and need to safely escape.
- : Decent radius, and no save.
- : This is great for choke points like hallways, but just putting the effect between you and an enemy might keep them just outside of melee reach, so even casting this with a single action may be enough to achieve the desired effect.
- : Invisibility is a great option for a focus spell because it's useful in nearly every combat, and being able to cast it without a spell slot makes it easier to justify casting. The gradually improving duration is nice, too. Eventually you can cast this, then remain invisibile while you Refocus to regain your Focus Points.
- : Only good if you can score a critical success.
- : Healing never hurts, and Wizards have terrible few options to restore their own hit points.
- : Cast as one action with no somatic components, but its still a range of touch. I think that's an error. Even so, this spell is garbage. The bonus is too small to justify rushing nearly into melee just to tap your ally on the shoulder to give them a +2 bonus on a single check, and if you're out of combat I don't know why you would waste a Focus Point on any of the affected checks. You could use it on yourself, but that doesn't help the situation much.
- : The speed options and sense options are excellent. Even with the limited duration, you can spare a single action in combat to get yourself Scent when there are invisible creatures around.
Second: There's no restriction on the weapon, so as-written you could use any weapon you're capable of holding. Find a greataxe, lug it around, and magically hurl it at people. As a GM, I would limit this to appropriately-sized weapons in which the caster is at least Trained to avoid abuse, but then the spell immediately stops being useful except possibly for multiclassed fighters.
The only way to make this viable is to use a big weapond and to put Striking runes on it. Even then, you're spending a lot of gold for something you might do once or twice in each fight, and unless you're spending a ton of gold and using a big weapon, the damage will still quickly fall behind your cantrips. : This spell has some serious design problems. First: the damage is garbage, and it falls behind cantrips almost immediately. Cantrips will deal 1d4+Mod at first level, which will match Hand of the Apprentice with any weapon the wizard is Trained with (short of feats, etc.). At 3rd level, 2d4+Mod will match one-handed martial weapons. At 5th level, 3d4+mod will match two-handed weapons.
- : Advanced Alchemy has a lot to offer, even if you do nothing but use your Infused Reagents to create elixirs of life. Alchemical Bombs are a tempting offensive option, but you're not proficient.
- : I don't know why you would want this.
- : Charisma-based spellcasting.
- : The armor proficiency is tempting, but you never advance past Trained, so your unarmor/light proficiencies will provide just as much AC and won't impose a massive Check Penalty.
- : Your Wisdom won't match your Intelligence, but it should be good enough to make Cleric spellcasting work. You can also reserve your Cleric spells for non-offensive spells and use your Wizard spells more offensively so that your comparatively low Wisdom isn't an issue. If you take Domain Initiate (and possibly Advanced Domain), your domain spells provide and additional option to use your Focus Points if your school's Focus Spells aren't always useful.
- : Very similar benefits to the Cleric, and your can take Order Spell to get a Druid Focus Spell. You also get great Cleric feat options like Animal Companion, which can provide a convenient mount or something horrifying to throw a bunch of buff spells onto.
- : Being Trained in martial weapons won't suddenly make them a good idea. You can get them up to Expert if you take Diverse Weapon Expert, but that's two feats to still be comparably terrible at using weapons. Your Cantrips will always be a better idea.
- : The best option I can think of is to learn to throw Shurikens with the leftover Action after casting a 2-Action spell, but that's a really terrible idea.
- : I guess you could do something useful with Snares, but I don't see anything that you couldn't do better with spells.
- : If you really like to use Demoralize with your third Action after casting 2-Action spells, You're Next is a tempting feat option, but I don't think it's worth two class feats to make that happen.
- : Charisma-based spellcasting.