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Unlock Cosmic Mysteries and Cast Some Fireballs
What's the best build for a wizard in dnd 5e? What's the best race for a wizard in 5e? So you want to play a wizard in Dungeons and Dragons ? Maybe you want to play the brain of the party; the one who solves all the puzzles. Or maybe you're just interested in being able to cast a wide variety of spells. Whatever your reason for playing a wizard, we're here to guide you through playing this rewarding character class. Before you start reading this guide, check out our awesome Wizard dice sets, so you can play in character!
In this wizard 5e guide, we'll explore the best options for race, skills, and abilities for a Wizard in D&D 5E. We'll also explore arcane traditions, spells, builds, and more. We'll give you the info you need to make the most effective wizard under the current rules.
What Are Wizards?
A wizard is an arcane spellcaster, a brilliant master of the eldritch arts and delver into the mysteries of the universe. A cleric is blessed by a god or deity , a sorcerer is born magical, and a warlock is granted their gift, but wizards must earn their power through meticulous research and the sweat of their brow. Wizards are the pure spellcasters by which all other spellcasters are measured, and they are as varied as magic itself. Mechanically, wizards are physically fragile but have access to some of the game's most powerful magic. Wizards tend to make powerful utility casters, with access to countless spells for solving different problems. Though they can be easily built as DPS battle mages, slinging fireballs and magic missiles across the battlefield, or complex control casters that can take command over any situation.
Some of the most iconic characters that would probably be wizards in D&D includes Harry Potter and practically every character from the Harry Potter Series, Merlin of Arthurian legend and most of his pop culture iterations, and Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings.
Wizard Ability Scores
One of the fundamental choices you'll be making as your character starts out and begins gaining levels is where to spend your Ability Score Increases. You'll have considerable control of your starting stats and then you'll be able to choose either 2 ability score points or a feat at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19. You'll want to prioritize getting bonus intelligence.
Wizard spells are powered up by your Intelligence bonus, so you should always make sure your Intelligence modifier is as high as possible. High Intelligence bonuses boosts your spell attack bonus and difficulty, so your spell attack rolls will be higher and will deal more damage to creatures if you have a higher Intelligence modifier. You should also take advantage of your high Intelligence by choosing proficiencies in the often difficult knowledge skills. Proficiencies in things like Arcana or History can go a long way towards passing some key ability checks.
Dexterity and Constitution are also important to wizards. Your Mage Armor spell will make your AC 13 + Dexterity modifier. So, the higher your Dexterity is, the harder it will be for your foes to hit you. And wizards have naturally low hit points, so having a high Constitution helps to reduce this problem. Additionally, "concentration spells" require you to concentrate, and keeping that concentration requires a decent Constitution. Since you won't be able to add your proficiency bonus (wizards aren't proficient in Constitution saves) you'll need at least a bit of Constitution score buffer. Put your second and third highest rolls into Constitution and Dexterity.
Perception checks are a common occurrence in most D&D campaigns and a good selection of other powerful skills on the skill list rely on Wisdom. For better perception put your fourth-highest ability score into Wisdom and try to pick up the Perception skill proficiency.
Strength and Charisma are not very useful to wizards. Put your bad ability scores into Strength and Charisma. There are some times where you will be thwarted by their low Strength or Charisma at a rope climb or a prickly conversation, but your bookworm will have plenty of times where they're the only solution with all that sweet Intelligence.
5e D&D doesn't force you into tropes or certain combinations and you don't need to maximize every stat. However, if you're feeling like a bit of optimization as a wizard you'll benefit from having a high Intelligence score and to a lesser extent a high Dexterity or Constitution score. The following races gain a bonus to Intelligence and a bonus to either Dexterity or Constitution, making them ideal races for your new wizard character.
5e is extremely flexible and you should never feel forced to squeeze out every possible stat bonus. However, if you do want to try and optimize your abilities the following races provide some of the best synergies with the artificer class:
Elf (High Elf)
While for some reason people seem to recommend the half-elf, high elves gain +1 Int on top of their base +2 Dex bonus. Beyond the normal "elf" ribbon features you'll also pick up a spare cantrip, which can be helpful if you were having trouble picking between them. You'll also pick up the elf weapon proficiencies which can be a sly method of building up into some of the more esoteric melee wizard builds.
Base genasi gain +2 Con and the fire variety gain +1 Int. Fire resistance on top of the more relevant Con bonus makes fire genasi a decent alternative to tieflings for a wizard. You'll also get a free casting of the decent spell burning hands and the produce flame cantrip for free, perfect for fire themed evocation wizards who are built for as much fire damage as possible.
Gnomes are one of the only races to gain the coveted +2 bonus to Intelligence and between Forest and Rock gnomes you'll have your pick of +1 Dex or +1 Con. In addition, gnomes gain the Gnome Cunning ability that gives you advantage on pretty much all mental saving throws which is nearly overpowered.
Hobgoblins gain +1 Int and get a beefy +2 bonus to Con. Their Saving Face ability is surprisingly strong but the big reason to make a hobgoblin wizard is that they gain light armor proficiency as a racial trait. Light armor in the early levels lets you save a spell slot that would otherwise go towards mage armor, and in later levels it makes upgrading to medium or heavy armor a lot easier for mage-tank builds and generally makes you better suited for fights.
Humans are always the kings of versatility and base human's full set of buffs or the variant human's picks of +1 Int and +1 Dex will serve you well. Consider variant human for the feat War Caster if you're planning on building up a battle mage. Do be aware though that on a lot of tables variant humans get banned, make sure your DM is cool with that first level feat. Don't get caught up on the "bland human" description either, some of the most imaginative characters I've seen and played with were "boring humans".
Simic Hybrids gain +2 Con and +1 in any other ability score, which you can make Dex or Con. Locked for the most part into the Ravnica setting, but very versatile. You'll be able to select from some very useful mobility traits at the start, but when you get your "big" upgrade at 5th level I recommend snagging the +1 AC bonus. A higher AC is a precious thing to a wizard.
Warforged gain +2 Con and get their choice for +1 in another ability score, which you can make Int. Warforged aren't as interesting as they used to be, but the flat AC bonus from their Integrated Protection feature is nothing to sneeze at. Be aware that they're technically locked into the Eberron setting though, so make sure ahead of time that your DM is cool with robots in their fantasy setting.
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At second level your wizard will select an arcane tradition, which is more or less the school of magic they'll focus on and functions as your wizard subclass. Some of these schools of magic will boost your aptitude with a certain type of spell or transform your wizard's playstyle altogether. The wizard class has a lot of options to choose from and the schools help you tailor build to fit specific roles. Consider these schools carefully before making your choice and deciding what sort of wizard you want your character to be:
Bladesingers try to bridge the gap between wizards and Dex fighters. Your Bladesong pumps up your speed and your AC, and the sword cantrips like green flame blade add magical damage to your melee attacks allows bladesingers to act like magic fighters. You'll still have the flimsy HP of a wizard, but bladesingers get enough defensive spells to dance around your enemies like a whirling dervish making a ton of magical attacks. Probably the best option if you're trying to get into combat as a wizard and play them like a fighter.
Made by Matt Mercer, this arcane tradition is all about time magic and mechanically plays out as a control caster. Chronal Shift lets you force important rerolls (like when somebody crits or fumbles) and the Momentary Stasis ability lets you pop creatures out of existence for key turns. Consider this tradition if you enjoy taking control of the battlefield and your opponents and royally messing with creatures.
The other Matt Mercer special, graviturgy is also a strong control caster option, but deceptively so. The tradition's bread and butter are its 6th level Gravity Well ability that lets you shift targets by 5 feet whenever you hit them with practically anything. This makes cliff edges and environmental hazards your best friend, and often a slight shift can outright doom an enemy. Take as many damaging area of effect spells as possible then just slide your enemies back in whenever they get out.
Order of Scribes
Flavored as the "bookish"wizard, this school of magic is a versatile utility tradition with bizarrely strong exploration options. To start, you're the fastest class for adopting new spells. If you find a fresh spellbook you can transcribe those spells into your own at just 2 minutes per spell level. But the big strength of this tradition is Manifest Mind. You get basically a "super familiar" that you can share senses with, cast spells out of, and is entirely intangible (and therefore invulnerable) unless somebody in the dungeon is packing dispel magic.
School of Abjuration
Much like its spells, the school of abjuration is all about the defense and I find they tend to play a bit like clerics. Arcane Ward gives you a pool of temporary hit points as a buffer that recharges whenever you cast abjuration spells. Not the flashiest school, but if you're interested in playing a wizard who keeps themself and their buddies alive, this is the one to play.
School of Conjuration
The early levels give you creation powers some fun utility options, but this school is strangely all about its 10th level ability Focused Conjuration. High level conjuration spells are STRONG and incredibly awkward to deal with. Usually, the best option is to smack the conjurer and force them to break concentration and lose the spell, since attacking the summons is usually pointless. With this school, that plan of attack doesn't work on you and your summoned creatures will be here to stay.
School of Divination
Divination spells can be great for exploration, puzzle solving, and generally moving the plot forward. From a combat perspective it's not so hot though. Mechanically the school makes up for that with the Portent feature. Every day you'll roll two D20s and note them down, and you'll get to replace a roll you either make or see with your "foretold" die roll. This can be amazingly powerful in the hands of a control caster. As a reaction turn that enemy hit into an automatic miss or save that lucky critical hit for the perfect moment.
School of Enchantment
This is one of the schools I see played the least, probably because it relies on charm effects which have a high chance of blowing up in your face. Also, most "beguiling" character builds want to be charismatic, but your high Intelligence low Charisma wizard is unlikely to be seducing anybody. Still, Instinctive Charm is a very strong defensive ability that can justify this school if you want to mesmerize your enemies into submission.
School of Evocation
This is the school for wizards that want to cast fireballs and never stop casting fireballs. The big draw of this tradition is the Sculpt Spells feature that lets you intentionally "miss" targets in the area of an evocation spell. Which means even in a crowded room of monsters and allies, you can still feel free to let the fireballs and other AOE spells fly. You'll also eventually start getting straight damage buffs as well, burn on you pyromaniacs.
School of Illusion
Illusions in general are rather hit or miss and can either completely bypass encounters or can be completely irrelevant. Normally convincing illusions are relegated to higher level spells, but with this school's Malleable Illusions feature you'll find even the low-level stuff can do the trick. Adding in the ability to change illusions on the fly makes many illusion spells into living performances rather than static props. Seriously consider this school if you're planning on making trickery a core modus operandi.
School of Necromancy
Without this school, animate dead is sort of annoying, WITH this school animate dead becomes a serious threat. Your zombies will actually be survivable and can dish out respectable damage. Keep in mind though that you still won't be animating anything until you get to 3rd level spells. With a little dabbling in death and daggers your wizard can rival clerics for the top necromancer spot. You'll also in a strange way be able to fill the front-line fighter role, not as a fighter yourself, but with an ample supply of disposable undead "fighters" at your beck and call. Also check with your DM ahead of time, as there's plenty of settings and situations where raising a few zombies will be frowned upon in polite society.
School of Transmutation
Dubious strength but doubtless utility, transmutation wizards are the kings of finding weird solutions to puzzles through transmuting up the right stuff for the situation. For combat you'll really be waiting until 10th level though, when you get a free personal polymorph to become a monster t-rex now and again. Transmutation isn't a bad option if you're looking for utility and clever solutions.
Battle mage, pure and simple. You gain defensive abilities that really help to offset the wizard's innate squish factor, and offensive abilities that reliably add to the damage your spells put out. You won't suddenly transform into a front-line fighter, but you'll be able to take a few punches. This is a great option if you want to play your wizard as a straight blaster caster.
Eventually you'll be playing games with things like signature spells and 9th-level spells, but for now let's start with the basics of how your spellcasting functions, your spell lists, and spell levels.
As a full spellcaster your effectiveness in game is ultimately tied to your spellcasting. Wizards use prepared spells as opposed to innate spellcasting, which means you will be picking out and preparing the spells you want to cast at the start of each day from a larger list of the spells you know.
You also use a spellcasting focus, which basically just means you've got to hold a staff or amulet or some other magical object to cast your spells.
As a wizard you'll know a number of spells off the wizard spell list depending on your wizard level. Also depending on your wizard level you'll have a number of "spell slots". Here's where it can get confusing. Spell slots have their own levels (man I wish they just used different terminology there). So you'll have a number of 1st level spell slots, 2nd level spell slots, Etc. And you'll gain more of them as you advance in level.
So, to cast a 3rd level spell, you'll need to expend a 3rd level spell slot. Many spells will allow you to "upcast" them as well for greater effects. For example, if you spend a 4th level spell slot on Fireball (a 3rd level spell), it will inflict more damage.
A good way to think of a spell slot as ammunition or fuel for your spell attacks, and the prepared spells themselves are the weapons you load them into. To fire off a spell, you'll load your ammo (a spell slot) into one of the weapons you brought a long (the prepared spell).
Like a lot of other spellcasting classes, wizards get "level 0 spells" called cantrips. You don't need to expend spell slots to cast these spells, and many of them will improve slightly with your wizard level naturally over time.
Cantrips are also important in a way that many players miss, in that depending on what actions you've taken, you can potentially use them to cast extra spells on a turn.
Normally, you're not allowed to cast more than 1 spell in a turn, even if your remaining actions would allow it.
There's a very specific exception to this rule, that says "You can't cast another spell during the same turn, except for a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action." This means that whenever you cast a bigger spell using a bonus action (many spells use a bonus action instead of an action) you should remember your cantrips and feel free to fire one off. Some powerful bonus action spells for wizards include expeditious retreat, and misty step.
One final note on wizard cantrips, I just want to warn you of a strictly bad spell called truestrike. You cast the cantrip to gain advantage on your next attack, but doing this essentially just wastes your turn, as you could have made the 2nd attack anyway with twice the potential damage output. You have been warned.
Fundamental and excellent wizards feature, arcane recovery gives you some spell slots back on short rests and keeps you from being a strictly long rests character. Once a day on short rests you can recover spell slots "equal" to half your wizard level. So, a 4th level wizard using arcane recovery could regain 2 1st level spell slots, or a single 2nd level spell slot.
Some spells are marked as special "ritual spells". Essentially, a ritual spell can be cast without spending a spell slot if you "cast it as a ritual", which means tacking 10 minutes onto the casting time. This stops you from casting ritual spells in combat but saves you the spell slot if you've got the spare time and there isn't an immediate threat.
Many casters would have to spend a feat to pick up "ritual casting", but your lucky wizard gets ritual casting right off the bat. Many utility spells are rituals so try to remember the feature when identifying the magic bauble doesn't need to happen right this moment.
Wizards are unique in that they can learn their own spells by finding them out in the world and simply adding spells to their spellbook. If you find a wizard spell in some other wizard's spellbook or in a spell scroll you can copy it down into your own spellbook at the cost of 2 hours and 50 gp for each of the spell's levels. You may come across odd spells in the loot gained from defeating creatures, and it can sometimes be a nice way of rewarding you as the DM. Remember though that your spellbook is a unique item and it'll be an absolute pain to replace. Try making a backup spellbook just in case some creatures make off with it. Most of the schools of magic will also make this process cheaper if you're copying down spells of your chosen school. Between the spellbook and your token arcane focus this is really the only equipment your wizard will ever need.
Optional Wizard Features
In Tasha's Cauldron of Everything every class got a set of optional features that act like a sort of upgrade patch to fix issues and improve things that needed improving. These features are technically optional, but assuming your DM allows them, make sure to include these class features with your wizard character:
You're not gaining a spell slot or additional spells with these, rather you get a bunch of new options when picking out your spells. Using the optional features, the following spells have been added to the wizard spell list:
Cantrip (0 Level)
Tasha's caustic brew
Tasha's mind whip
Speak with dead
Tasha's otherworldly guise
Dream of the blue veil
Blade of disaster
Added at 3rd level, this basically lets you re-spec a cantrip whenever you finish a long rest. This is a major buff to wizard 5e versatility, as you can now trade key cantrips in and out to plan for certain situations. Take full advantage of this if your DM allows it, and don't be afraid to trade out good cantrips for situational ones if you know what's likely to be an issue the next day.
When it comes to skills, wizards excel at absorbing information and using it to solve problems. Use Arcana to recall information about magical objects and lore, History to understand the world around you and how it got to be the way it is, and Investigation to follow the trail of clues to solve the mystery.
Although the Cleric in your party might know Religion , he probably lacks the Int to make good use of it, so you can take it too.
Feats are optional bonuses you can take instead of an ability score increase. Most feats dnd 5e are not very useful to wizards or are extremely situational. So, in most cases, you should take an Ability Score Improvement instead.
The four exceptions to this are the War Caster, Resilience , Elemental Adept and Spell Sniper feats.
War Caster gives you advantage on concentration checks, and a limited ability to cast a spell as a reaction if someone provokes an opportunity attack (limited to one creature other than self). Advantage is the mathematical equivalent of +5.
Resilience gives you an additional point in Constitution, as well as saving throws in Constitution. The concentration mechanic works off of a Concentration saving throw, so this can be extremely valuable later in the game. If you had an odd constitution score the increase in hit points is also useful.
Elemental Adept lets you choose an element: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder. Any spell you cast that does damage from that element turns all 1s on damage dice into 2s, and all your spells ignore resistance to that elemental damage type. This is especially good for wizards of the Evocation Tradition. Keep in mind that Fire is the most commonly resisted element in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.
Spell Sniper doubles your spell range, makes your ranged spells ignore half-cover and three-quarters cover, and gives you an extra attack spell - all great benefits for just about any wizard.
Picking a Wizard Build
Dnd 5e is extremely flexible and you don't need to work towards a specific wizard build to have an effective and fun character for your adventures. However, there are several broad strategies that work especially well for the wizard class and they can serve as good starting suggestions for your character ideas.
While the sorcerer and warlock classes may have a lot of spells or evocations under their belt, wizards have the widest variety of any arcane caster by far. Wizards can be a sort of swiss-army mage, with a wizard spell at the ready to solve any problems or events the party runs into. I particularly like the school of transmutation for this role, who gain a lot of quirky magic that can provide just the right solution. Building towards this role works especially well if your dungeon master likes using puzzles, riddles, or the campaign has a substantial mystery element. Many times you'll be the one in the party responsible for interpreting clues with your high Intelligence, reading out the odd spell scroll and identifying the odd suspicious magic item.
Wizards are one of the go-to classes for battlefield control and you'll have access to some of the strongest control magic in the game. Rather than focusing on pure damage spells like fireball or lightning bolt, focus on spells that can effectively negate whatever people are trying to do. Spells like maze and sleep will temporarily remove enemies from the combat equation and give the rest of your party time to deal with them. Use defensive abjuration spell strategies like shield and mage armor to stay alive, and mobility spells like dimension door, misty step, and expeditious retreat to move yourself or your allies where they're needed most at the correct time. Finally try taking things like counterspell and dispel magic to counter enemy spellcasters. I like the school of divination best for this role, as your portent magic will give you direct control over pivotal rolls.
While I'd argue that there are marginally better character classes for simply dishing out damage at a distance floating around the multiverse, wizards are still the gold standard for pure magic damage potential. This style of build doesn't take much work, simply select the school of evocation and go to town launching some fireballs without fear of hurting an ally. For more oomph, select the elemental adept feat and pick a damage type, then pack your spellbook full of every spell that blasts your favorite flavor of pain for maximum damage. The feat will also let you overcome resistance (but not immunity) to your chosen damage, a key weakness otherwise for specialists.
We've gone over the best races, builds, schools, feats, and skills for wizards.
There are a great many ways to play this class. You can play an Illusionist who tricks everyone around them, an Evoker that casts powerful damaging spells, an Abjurer who buffs up his friends and lets them do the fighting, a scholar of Arcane Knowledge who seeks to always learn more, or a Historian who wants to travel the world and see the places he has only read of in books.
Regardless of which type of wizard you play, they are great characters for any party.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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