Ultimate DnD Wizard 5e Class Guide for Dungeons and Dragons

Posted by Ted Cory on

Unlock Cosmic Mysteries and Cast Some Fireballs

What's the best build for a wizard in 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 of 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, you probably want to know how to make the most powerful character that’s possible.

 

In this 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, and more. We’ll give you the info you need to make the most effective wizard under the current rules.



Wizard 5e Guide for DnD

What Are Wizards?

Wizards are students of the arcane, brilliant masters of the eldritch arts and delvers into the mysteries of the universe. Sorcerers are born magical and warlocks are given magical gifts, wizards 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

Wizard spells use Intelligence, so you should always place your highest ability score into Int. This will improve your spell attack bonus and difficulty, so you'll land more spells.

Dex and Con are also important to wizards. Your Mage Armor spell will make your AC 13 + Dex modifier. So, the higher your Dex is, the harder it will be for your foes to hit you. And wizards have naturally low hit points, so having a high Con helps to reduce this problem. Additionally, "concentration" is an important aspect of being a 5e spellcaster, so more points in concentration will help. Put your second and third highest rolls into Con and Dex.

Perception checks are a common occurrence in most D&D campaigns. And these checks rely on Wis, so put your fourth-highest ability score into Wis.

Str and Cha are not very useful to wizards. Put your low rolls into these attributes.

Wizard Races

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)

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.

Genasi (Fire)

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 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.

Gnome

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 over powered.   

Hobgoblin

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.

Human

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.

Simic Hybrid

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

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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Arcane Traditions

At second level your wizard will select an arcane tradition, which is more or less the school of magic they’ll focus on. Some of these traditions will boost your aptitude with a certain type of spell or transform your wizard’s playstyle altogether. Wizards have a lot of options to choose from and can be built to fit a lot of roles. Consider these arcane traditions carefully before making your choice and deciding what sort of wizard you want your character to be:

Bladesinging

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. You’ll still have the flimsy HP of a wizard, but with enough defensive spells you’ll be able 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 melee as a wizard.

Chronurgy Magic

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 bad guys out of existence for key turns. Consider this tradition if you enjoy taking control of the battlefield and your opponents.

Graviturgy Magic

The other Matt Mercer special, graviturgy is also a strong control caster option, but deceptively so. The tradition’s bread and butter is 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, the order of scribes 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, this school is all about the defense. 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 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 those summons will be here to stay.

School of Divination

Divination 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. 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 Int low Cha 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 your spells. Which means even in a crowded room of enemies and allies, you can still feel free to let the fireballs 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. 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 t-rex now and again. Transmutation isn’t a bad option if you’re looking for utility and clever solutions.

War Magic 

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. This is a great option if you want to play your wizard as a straight blaster caster.

 

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:

New Spells

Using the optional features, the following spells have been added to the wizard spell list:

Cantrip (0 Level)

Booming blade 

Green-flame blade 

Lightning lure 

Mind sliver 

Sword burst 

1st Level

Tasha’s caustic brew 

2nd Level

Augury 

Enhance ability 

Tasha’s mind whip 

3rd Level

Intellect fortress 

Speak with dead 

Spirit shroud 

Summon fey 

Summon shadowspawn 

Summon undead 

4th Level

Divination 

Summon aberration 

Summon construct 

Summon elemental 

6th Level

Summon fiend 

Tasha’s otherworldly guise 

7th Level

Dream of the blue veil 

9th Level

Blade of disaster 

 

Cantrip Formulas

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 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.

 

Spells

No D&D 5e wizard guide would be complete without a list of the best spells.

For offense at level 1, use Catapult to fling heavy objects at your enemies and Magic Missile to hit them with magic darts. If there are too many of them to handle, cast Sleep on some of them to get them to leave you alone or cast Thunderwave to hit them all at once.

At level 2, use Misty Step to teleport out of danger.

At level 3, use Animate Dead to get some new allies, Counterspell to deal with the opposition’s wizards, and Haste to buff your fighter so he can mow down your enemies. For direct damage, use Melf’s Minute Meteors.

At higher levels, even better spells will become available. But this list should at least get you started.

Wizard skills

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.

Wizard feats

Most feats in the Player’s Handbook 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 War Caster, Resilience, Elemental Adept and Spell Sniper.

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 5e.

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.

 

Conclusion

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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5e Wizard Class Guide for Dungeons and Dragons 

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Last updated: January 27, 2019

The information contained on www.SkullSplitterDice.com website (the "Service") is for general information purposes only.

www.SkullSplitterDice.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. (source: Section 5)

Blueshift Nine, LLC assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents on the Service.

In no event shall Blueshift Nine, LLC be liable for any special, direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tort, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Service or the contents of the Service. Blueshift Nine, LLC reserves the right to make additions, deletions, or modification to the contents on the Service at any time without prior notice.

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