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 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.
Best races for a wizard
Some races make great wizards, while others are not so great. Here is a list of some great wizard races.
+ 2 Int gives gnomes a natural aptitude for learning magic. And Gnomish Cunning gives them advantage on saving throws against magic.
Forest gnomes get +1 Dex and Minor Illusion. Rock gnomes get +1 Con, and Artificer’s Lore allows them to double their proficiency bonus on History checks involving magic or alchemical objects.
Overall, gnome is a great race to choose for a wizard character.
All elves get +2 Dex, which helps your AC. They also gain automatic proficiency in the Perception skill, which is useful for any class. High elves get + 1 Int and an extra cantrip, which is great for wizards
Humans using variant rules get +1 to 2 abilities. You can use this to give yourself +1 Int and Dex or +1 Int and Con. They also get an extra skill and feat at level 1. Put this extra skill into History, Investigation, or some other Int-based skill. Take Spell Sniper or Elemental Adept for the feat.
Half-elves get + 1 Int. In addition, Skill Versatility gives them proficiency in two extra skills. Since wizards often rely heavily on knowledge skills to succeed where might has failed, these two extra skills can come in handy.
Tieflings get +1 Int, making them better at casting wizard spells than most races. They also get free Thaumaturgy, Hellish Rebuke, and Darkness spells. However, these spells must be cast using Charisma, so this race is best chosen if your low ability score rolls are at least 10 or higher.
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Best Arcane Traditions
At level 2, you’ll be able to choose your Arcane Tradition, a school of magic for you to specialize in. There are eight schools listed in the Player’s Handbook, but only 6 of them are especially powerful. There are more Arcane Traditions available in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Here are the best Arcane Traditions from the PHB, along with the best spells from each school.
The school of magic that blocks, banishes, and protects.
At level 2, use Arcane Ward to create a magical ward around you that has hit points equal to your Intelligence modifier + 4. This ward becomes more powerful as you level.
At level 6, use Projected Ward to move your Arcane Ward onto one of your friends as a reaction, protecting them from damage.
Gives you spells of discernment, remote viewing, and supernatural knowledge.
At level 2, Portent lets you roll 2 d20s and record the result. You can later replace a roll made by you or someone else with this roll. If the roll is high, use it on yourself when an important check or saving throw is needed. If the roll is low, replace an opponent’s attack or save with it.
At level 6, Expert Divination lets you regain an expended spell slot when you cast a Divination spell.
This school lets you magically entrance other creatures.
At level 2, use Hypnotic Gaze to stun an opponent who gets too close to you. At level 6, use Instinctive Charm to make your opponents hit their own allies instead of you.
The Evocation school enhances your offensive elemental spells, such as those that do frost, fire, or acid damage. At level 2, Sculpt Spells helps to prevent your area of effect spells from doing damage to your friends. At level 10, Empowered Evocation increases the damage done by Evocation spells.
The name says it all. This school focuses on tricks and illusions. At level 2, Improved Minor Illusion lets you create an image and sound using a single cast. At level 6, Malleable Illusion lets you change the nature of an illusion after it has been cast, creating even more realistic appearances.
These illusions can be useful in a variety of situations, from tricking others into giving up information, to disguising yourself, to diverting attacks away from you, and more.
This is essentially the “death magic” school.
At level 2, Grim Harvest lets you suck away the life of creatures you kill with first level or higher spells, healing yourself in the process. At level 6, Undead Thralls lets you cast Animate Dead on two corpses at once and give them both more hit points and damage than usual.
Some player characters view undead creatures as abominations against nature. So if your teammates have passionate views against necromancy, you may have to cast these when they’re not watching ;)
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.
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.
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.
**Xanathar's Class Updates**
War Magic (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
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.
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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