The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide had a few spells focused around melee, and a lot of them were on the Wizard’s list. But, the Wizard hates melee combat, and didn’t even get many options for weapons. Their solution? Give them melee! If… they’re elves. The Bladesinger 5E was born!
The Bladesinger are a group of elegant elf wizards, embracing close fights and grouped by combat style. There’s a myriad of animal-based names for styles, thanks to the Bladesinger being one of the few Wizards capable of earning a weapon proficiency. You might even get a tattoo of your family animal, to show your deadly prowess with magic and might.
But, is the Bladesinger truly magical and mighty? Or simply a gimmick? Let’s find out.
Roar of Blades: Bladesinger 5E
Mechanically, the Bladesinger Wizard is good two times per short rest. During those 1 minute bursts, you actually have a thematically powerful melee warrior… Though you are heavily restricted by armor type and are still quite reliant on magic until much later. If the Bladesinger is not able to get short rests after their Bladesong class ability is out, then you are essentially a Wizard without a subclass.
The Bladesinger is naturally Elf-only, but your GM can choose to lift the restriction. Maybe your character once had a relationship with a bladesinger, or your parents were good friends with them. It’s not too hard to find a reason, but make sure your DM’s okay with it first.
Trained in War and Song
You’re a Wizard in melee, so of course you’re gonna need to get your hands on some things!
When you adopt this tradition at 2nd level, you gain proficiency with light armor, and you gain proficiency with one type of one-handed melee weapon of your choice.
You also gain proficiency in the Performance skill if you don’t already have it.
One of these things is not like the others…
Quickly going over Performance… It’s not great. By RAW, Performance is only good as a background or money-making ability. 5E is super light with its usefulness; that’s almost 100% on your GM. See if you can use it as a distraction, or maybe as a pseudo-diplomacy, but don’t expect too much.
What’s more mechanically important are your combat proficiencies. Default Light Armor doesn’t get better than Mage Armor (the best is 12 + Dexterity), but you do get to enchant it later on. It also saves you a spell slot, since a +1 to AC is probably not worth a level 1 spell slot this early on. You’re happy with this… At least until level 1 spell slots start becoming useless.
Oh boy, you get 1 melee weapon… Of any quality! We’ll assume you want a Martial Melee weapon. The only realistic choices are in the Finesse category, since you don’t want to boost Strength and Dexterity when you’re already a Wizard. Unfortunately, though Thrown Weapons wouldn’t be a bad idea, they use the same modifier that you use for melee, and you’ve already got Dagger proficiency. That leaves you with a few choices; Rapier, Scimitar, Shortsword. and Whip.
Scimitars and Shortswords are designed for Two-Weapon Fighting, which isn’t a horrible idea for you. If you want to multiclass into Fighter for the Two-Weapon Fighting style, then they get pretty good (especially with your level 14 feature!). Rapier is the highest damage single-handed Finesse weapon available. Whips get you Reach, which might not be a bad idea if you wish to evade direct melee combat. Unfortunately, Whips work poorly with Green-Flame Blade… Unless your GM allows you to channel the attack through it instead of the default range of 5 feet.
Gimmick time! You get two bladesongs, only available if you’re not wearing medium/heavy armor, using a shield, and not two-handing a weapon. They last a minute, cost a bonus action to use, and you can cancel them whenever. You gain the following benefits during that minute;
- You gain a bonus to your AC equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of +1).
- Your walking speed increases by 10 feet.
- You have advantage on Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks.
- You gain a bonus to any Constitution saving throw you make to maintain your concentration on a spell. The bonus equals your Intelligence modifier (minimum of +1).
Both charges refresh on any type of rest.
Most people would say this is a stellar buff, and they’d be right. Later on, that’s a +5 to your AC; an absolutely insane boost to defense. Considering it barrs you from wearing a shield, I think that’s a fair trade. This boost to AC is your only reason that you can be in melee combat and not become abstract art.
Walking speed of 10 feet is great, but won’t come into play too often. It’ll let you land Green-Flame Blade and Lightning Lure more often, and you’ll be good at chasing. You can also use it to reposition yourself out of range of most melee combatants, if you need a quick disengage.
Advantage on Acrobatics is… Good. Some combats are on ice or a tightrope, and you’ll be the best at staying alive there. If your GM is a cool guy, you might be able to do a running dive over a table and stab someone in the throat. Or, if you’re super worried about jumping over a pit to get to the other side, you can proc Bladesong to get across in more cases. Not the best use of a 1 minute ability, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Maintaining concentration is really important for you, since you’ll be in melee quite a bit. You’ll get hit a few times, after all! Adding Intelligence to your Constitution is kinda like becoming proficient in Con saving throws… Almost. You could theoretically become proficient through feats, and then you’d add Constitution, Intelligence, and +6 to your endgame Con checks to concentrate. That auto-saves against the default DC, and gives you a dang good chance against the Half-Damage clause. Not bad!
This buff is insanely strong, but it’s the only reason your class works… So make sure to use it in combats that seem moderately difficult, and ask for short rests often!
Whew! After that huge line of text, it’s so nice to see “Extra Attack” next on the list!
Starting at 6th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.
And… It’s useless. Well, if you’re using 1d4 or 1d6 weapons.
At this level, Green-Flame Blade deals melee damage + 1d8, and then 1d8 + Int to someone else. That probably beats out your Rapier swinging twice. But, in combat situations where you aren’t fighting multiple, bunched-up creatures, then maybe swinging twice will work better for you than a cantrip. Cantrips are likely to be more accurate, and have better range. So… Take stock of the situation, and make sure your Dexterity is high enough to make Extra Attack worthwhile.
At level 14, this ability claws its way back on top. Right now, just try and make Green-Flame Blade work whenever you can.
Song of Defense
Now, for a reaction that you were sorely missing, but only gain access to now.
Beginning at 10th level, you can direct your magic to absorb damage while your Bladesong is active. When you take damage, you can use your reaction to expend one spell slot and reduce that damage to you by an amount equal to five times the spell slot’s level.
Wizard reactions are normally for counterspell, so you actually have something you can just spam whenever you’re fighting martial characters! Well… Maybe not spam…
Wizards occasionally have situations where they prepare utility spells “just in case.” And then, at the end of the day, when your low-level spell slots are wasted, you’re usually pretty sad. Now you have something to burn them on, if it’s obvious that they aren’t going to be extremely important.
The problem is, this is gonna eat through your spell slots. The highest level that you can block right now is a level 5 slot for 25 damage. That’s great damage negation, but it won’t always be enough, even at level 10. You’re going to want to use the Shield spell whenever you can, since a 25% chance to completely negate damage is better… And only uses a level 1 spell slot, which by now is useful only for utility.
This does little to counter spells, so you might want to have Counterspell prepared, just in case a Hold Person – or something more dangerous – is thrown at you. You might be able to block 25 damage from a Fireball, but your party will probably be happier if nobody takes any damage instead.
Song of Victory
At level 14, you become proficient enough at singing to go to an Opera. Oh, you also gain a damage buff.
Starting at 14th level, you add your Intelligence modifier (minimum of +1) to the damage of your melee weapon attacks while your Bladesong is active.
So, your weapons hit harder during bladesong. That’s important! That buffs the damage of the initial hit of Green-Flame Blade by 5!
In all seriousness, this finally makes Extra Attack a competitor for your Action slot, especially in single target scenarios. Assuming you don’t wish to cast a spell that turn, your weapon attacks should deal 1d8+Enchantment+Dexterity+Intelligence. If we assume you somehow have +5 Dexterity, +5 Intelligence, and a +3 weapon, that’s 17.5 damage on average. And you get to swing twice, potentially with a higher modifier than your Cantrips have due to Enchantment bonuses.
Green Flame blade reduces that doubled damage to a single hit of 4d8+Enchantment+Dexterity+Intelligence at level 17; 31 average damage. So, if you hit with both of your Weapon Attacks, you’re hitting harder with your Extra Attack than your cantrip… If only barely.
Of course, if your Enchantment deals extra damage from other sources, the damage difference gets wider… And if you don’t have a high Enchantment bonus, it gets thinner. This damage was also calculated assuming you were using a Rapier, though all weapons would deal slightly more damage to a single target on landing two hits.
This is also where Two-Weapon Fighting can become strong, allowing you to swing three times with Intelligence to damage. And with a multiclass, you can add your Dexterity to three swings, too! That’s actually solid damage.
If Green-Flame Blade can hit two targets, though? That’s so much better than Extra Attack. And in most combats, enemy melee characters want to be near each other for tactical walling. You’ll rarely be in situations where Green-Flame Blade doesn’t land and hit two people for loads of d8s. At least you’ll still be dealing +5 more damage!
Best Race for Bladesinger Wizards
Elves and Half-Elves are the only races by the ruleset that can use Bladesinger, so let’s discuss the merits of both.
Elves gain +2 to Dexterity – good for AC and Green-Flame Blade – and High Elf gain a +1 to Intelligence. You gain some decent utility abilities with Darkvision, Trance, and Fey Ancestry, and free Perception proficiency is always useful. The bonus cantrip is… Fine? Since you’re only using Green-Flame Blade, it’s not exactly perfect. And the weapon training offers you precious little, since you’re probably more interested in Rapiers or Whips, and Bladesinging does nothing for ranged attacks. Still, pretty great.
Half-Elves are fantastic, but actually don’t Bladesing very well. Charisma is worthless to you, so you’re getting +1 Int, +1 Dex/Con… Not good. Darkvision and Fey Ancestry are once again good utility, and Skill Versatility is actually astounding. Still, Half-Elf is definitely weaker than High Elf here.
A Consideration: Tortle
You may be looking at my guide and seeing how much I put into Dexterity. If your GM is the coolest of cats, and let’s you go outside of the Elven monopoly, then perhaps a Tortle is right for you. Tortles don’t need Dexterity to have high AC; they have a base of 17. That frees your hands up for a Strength-Based Bladesinger build, though you’re still restricted to a single-handed weapon. You also gain no inherent bonus to Intelligence; you’ll be focusing on Intelligence raising for 3 ability score boosts. Still, it unlocks a build path that the Elf and Half-Elf doesn’t offer. It’s a good idea if you want to try something new!
Conclusion – Our Take on the Bladesinger 5E
The Bladesinger school isn’t all that bad, but it’s heavily reliant on Bladesinging to be even somewhat useful. It also doesn’t do anything much better than other Wizards, nor does it do much more than an Eldritch Knight, other than having more potent spell slots. If you want to try your hand at a frontliner that’s likely to explode their enemies – perhaps with an Oath of Redemption Paladin nearby – then Bladesinger won’t do you too wrong.