This archetype is one of the weirdest ones we’ve ever had the honor to have released to us… Almost entirely because it was scribed within Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. And it was the exact same both times. Weird. Our Storm Sorcerer 5E investigates!
The Storm Sorcerer, as may be expected, has the power of elemental air in their blood. You may have had ancestors who nearly died in the Great Rain, or were born on a ship in the eye of a storm. Maybe your ancestors were powerful djinn… In any case, you are invaluable on any waterborne ship, or for defending coast communities against the effects of hurricanes. You’re likely well known as being tumultuous and quick to anger, and then becoming as calm as a sunny day. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s set up our sails and look towards the horizons of your future levels.
Harness the Tempest: Storm Sorcerer 5E
Mechanically, the Storm Sorcerer suffers from a few potent issues. Firstly, a lot of its effects are focused around being in close-ranged combat without any additional defense to keep you afloat. Secondly, the rewards for being in close-ranged combat don’t scale very well. The only immensely powerful feature of this sorcerer subclass is attained is at level 18, and that’s problematic for a few reasons.
That’s not to say this archetype is completely unsalvageable, because it’s not. It has useful utility and it’s by far the most aggressive subtype that the Sorcerer has to offer (by pure class abilities). Weave in and out of combat, and you’ll be surprised by the damage you can output.
The Storm Sorcerer immediately gains access to Primordial. You actually gain access to 4 languages here; Aquan, Auran, Ignan, and Terran. You can’t write in those four languages, but you can write Primordial, which is understood by those who can read those four languages… It’s kinda weird.
Language abilities are always a little… Whatever. The ability to talk and write to other creatures can let you avoid conflicts or get information. It also lets your language-based spells land easier, so… I guess if you plan on multiclassing into Bard or Cleric, that can be helpful.
Notably, these 4 languages all belong to Elementals. If you’re going into a campaign where you must communicate with elementals often – for example, if your GM really wants to Plane-Hop – then this is a really potent ability. It’ll save a lot of headache when communicating with Djinn, since they usually have one of those four languages in their pockets.
So, surprisingly good, with some interesting versatility; 4 languages in a single class feature is rare.
Your first class ability is a wonderful hop, skip, and jump.
Starting at 1st level, you can use a bonus action on your turn to cause whirling gusts of elemental air to briefly surround you, immediately before or after you cast a spell of 1st level or higher. Doing so allows you to fly up to 10 feet without provoking opportunity attacks.
Actually just a hop.
10 feet of movement is pathetically small, not letting you get anywhere important on just a spellcast. At this level, you don’t have consistent fly speed (unless you’re an Aaracokra), so you can’t hover in the air. If you’re worried about 10 feet gaps, you’ll probably have a way to get across them without spending a precious spell slot… Usually, in the arms of your friendly party Barbarian.
So instead, you want to use this for the “without provoking opportunity attacks” clause. The 10 feet float is usually enough to let you get barely out of range of most melee combatants – and sometimes, if you’re near a ledge, you can get frustratingly out of range.
And since you can do it before or after, you can also float into range of a spellcast before you cast it. Ever been exactly 5 ft away of being able to cast that life-saving Hold Person? Bam, you’re now right in range. Or, if you’re really in the mood to be creative with your tactics, you can float 10 ft back and then use a spell with pull to put your enemy between your melee party members.
10 feet of movement is usually insignificant, but you get a way to spend your Bonus Actions to get some alright mobility. It’s not bad, but if it could only activate on casting a cantrip… Oh well.
Heart of the Storm
Now we’re starting to get into the “heart” of the class! Eh? Eh?
At 6th level, you gain resistance to lightning and thunder damage. In addition, whenever you start casting a spell of 1st level or higher that deals lightning or thunder damage, stormy magic erupts from you. This eruption causes creatures of your choice that you can see within 10 feet of you to take lightning or thunder damage (choose each time this ability activates) equal to half your sorcerer level.
This ability is split into two categories. Resistance to lightning and thunder is solid. According to this fantastic summary of the default 5e Monster Manual, Lightning is a fairly common damage type. You’ll resist any air elementals or blue and bronze dragons. Lightning doesn’t have too many spells in it’s damage type, but you’ll resist Druids quite effectively.
Thunder damage… Well, uh… There’s 4 creatures in the default monster manual that deal Thunder damage. In pirate campaigns, you might have a few casts of Thunderwave thrown at you. And there are a few Thunder spells that might hit you real hard. Remember you have this, but don’t expect this half of your resistances to get much mileage.
The other part of this ability is why your Tempestuous Magic doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity. You do a burst of damage that scales poorly with your level. Half sorcerer level starts at 3 and maxes out at 10.
Don’t get me wrong; guaranteed damage is still damage. That means that your opponents are going to have lower health and get downed faster, therefore reducing damage to your party. However, this damage is really pitiful. And the range of the damage comes from you, meaning you need to cast this spell with 10 feet of yourself.
And then we talk about what options you have.
You have 11 spells that cost a spell slot and could possibly deal Lightning or Thunder. Of those options, only 9 of them are guaranteed. The other two are random. The options you do have are solid spells, but none of them really scream “I wanna be 10 ft away from enemies”… Although Thunder Step could be really cool!
Adding a small guaranteed area of effect to any spell will be nice, but make sure you aren’t going to become a bloodstain on the wall due to being so close. I’d recommend doing this strategy if your ally is trying a Sentinel build, since that’ll work wonders for keeping you safe.
Storm Guide is the flavorful feature of this class, and your second level 6 ability. That’s super unique amongst Sorcerer archetypes!
If it is raining, you can use an action to cause the rain to stop falling in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on you. You can end this effect as a bonus action.
If it is windy, you can use a bonus action each round to choose the direction that the wind blows in a 100-foot-radius sphere centered on you. The wind blows in that direction until the end of your next turn. This feature doesn’t alter the speed of the wind.
While neither of these are strictly useless in combat scenarios, you’ll probably want a bit more with your actions.
The first feature is hilarious. You’re an umbrella. This doesn’t have an explicit end to it, so you can constantly have this up as long as you pop an action in the morning. Then, you don’t get wet… Hmm. It’s theoretically useful if you need to ensure a small area stays on fire, or if you’re escorting a baby Fire Elemental, but… In most cases, rain just doesn’t matter. In fact, depending on how hard the rain is falling, this could make you an easier target to hit; if your GM is the type that really likes making environmental obstacles, you might want to consider turning this ability off. Otherwise… Whatever. Go crazy!
The wind effect is actually extremely useful for seafaring campaigns. If you can always ensure that the wind blows in the direction you want to move, you’ll get places so much faster. It can also prevent hurricanes from destroying your ship; you can simply direct your ship into the eye of the storm, or get it all the way out of the storm without it getting sucked in.
This can also hard-counter any tornados or whatnot by simply telling the tornado “no” and cancelling the wind-speed. Theoretically, you could really make Storm of Vengeance less effective… At least from rounds 5-10.
Unfortunately, this wind effect is supposed to explicitly be anti-weather. So, no dispelling Wind Wall or Gust of Wind, since those aren’t a windy weather effect. If your GM wants to push the power level of this subclass, then they might let you get away with it.
In most cases, though, this is a small benefit that could be great in a seafaring campaign.
Back to strictly mechanical benefits! And… Oh boy.
Starting at 14th level, when you are hit by a melee attack, you can use your reaction to deal lightning damage to the attacker. The damage equals your sorcerer level. The attacker must also make a Strength saving throw against your sorcerer spell save DC. On a failed save, the attacker is pushed in a straight line up to 20 feet away from you.
Okay… This isn’t bad. Not at all!
This is a reaction, something most sorcerers would save for Counterspell. This doesn’t cost a resource, though, so if you’re not worried about casters, you can just spam this on every melee attacker… Well, once a round, that is.
The damage of this ability is, once again, based on your Sorcerer level. That means that this reaction does a maximum of 20 damage. At level 20. That’s not nothing, but it’s not too much of a threat; enemy combatants will still want your face on the end of their spear.
That’s why it’s nice that the damage is only the free bonus! Knocking the enemy 20 feet away from you is wonderful. That keeps you safe from Extra Attacks or opportunity attacks in the future. A Strength save is probably not going to be too hard for most melee combatants to overcome… But against finesse attackers or those not proficient in Strength saves, you’ll be just fine. Knocking them 20 feet away does have a bit of anti-synergy with Heart of the Storm, however.
Considering you’re being asked to be within 10-20 feet of enemies, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind for a defensive ability…
This is, by far, the best ability that Sorcerers can get from their subclass.
At 18th level, you gain immunity to lightning and thunder damage.
You also gain a magical flying speed of 60 feet. As an action, you can reduce your flying speed to 30 feet for 1 hour and choose a number of creatures within 30 feet of you equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier. The chosen creatures gain a magical flying speed of 30 feet for 1 hour. Once you reduce your flying speed in this way, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest.
Let’s go over the least impactful effect (which is saying something!); immunity to damage. Immunity to Lightning is huge, since there’s some decent 9th level spells that can absolutely destroy you with lightning damage. The Thunder immunity, once again, exists. That’s better for anti-magic than fighting creatures. There’s still some good thunder spells, like Shatter, that scale well into the late game. Not bad, but not impactful, due to shallow spell lists.
Let’s talk about this flight, though. 60 ft of flight means that, at last, you can get your Tempestuous Magic to float slightly above enemies without needing magic or magic items. Thank goodness! That’s a huge boost to your survivability, since you can avoid being in range of any non-flying, Medium combatants. Flight is super critical for combat… And you probably should have had a way to fly by now. Just saying.
Flight lets you chase enemies, escape from combat, stay consistently out of range of area of effect spells, and position yourself out of range of melee. Just… Check for bows before you stay in the air for too long. You don’t wanna become a pincushion!
But, you can finally take Fly off of your spells known, because you can spend an action to give flight to 8 people. That’s incredible! Most Dungeons & Dragons parties are just 4, including yourself. That means you can give Flight to the party, an Animal companion, your escort mission, the Wizard’s Summoned creature, and a random scorpion crawling up a wall. And this flight lasts for an hour. And doesn’t use Concentration!
Whenever you crack that action out, you’ll be the life of the party. Everyone will love you! And then you can finally attune to something other than Winged Boots.
Best Race for Storm Sorcerers
Storm sorcerers don’t break any rules here; Charisma is king. You need to have enemies be affected by your magic. However, you’re going to be within 10 ft of enemies in a lot of fights… You need defensive stats. Consider boosting Dexterity or Constitution to almost the same level as your Charisma. Dexterity lets you avoid areas of effect and normal weapon swings. Constitution lets high rolls matter less, since you can shake off a hit or two more.
This Volo’s Guide to Monsters race are jungle cats that have a lot of great options for you. +2 Dexterity, +1 Charisma is super good for you; better AC, Reflex saves, and spell saves. In addition, Tabaxi have loads of good racial features. You get a free skill proficiency, Darkvision, better movement options (so you can get in range of your Heart faster!), and climb speed. It’s a super potent race, that’s perfect for mastering the storm. I guess kitty’s not afraid of water anymore.
Shifters – from Eberron: Rising from the Last War – are a pretty good race. The Swiftstride shifters get that Darkvision back but gain access to the Shifting feature. The Shifting feature is a bonus action that gives you a big pool of temporary hit points. Because you’re a Swiftstride, you gain +2 Dexterity and +1 Charisma, just like the Tabaxi. You also gain that single skill proficiency, but during the 1 minute that you’re shifted, you gain 10 ft of movement and can move 5 ft whenever someone gets close. That’s pretty great utility early on! And unlike the Tabaxi, you get both better AC, Reflex saves, and extra health. A good pick, if you want to trade utility for options.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Storm Sorcerer
The Storm sorcerer is the most aggressive Sorcerer subtype; if your party is lacking damage, you can get a lot out of this! However, your d6 hit dice are problematically small for how close you have to get to be effective. If you want a Sorcerer who can pull the most out of Lightning spells – and maybe have a few frontliners to keep you safe – then the Storm Sorcerer will work just fine.