The Player’s Handbook covers all 8 schools of magic, so it makes total sense that at least one has to be left in the dust. The School of Transmutation has never quite been the Wizard’s forte. Transmuters are beings that craft the world as they see fit. Unlike Conjurers, they find that changing living beings is much easier than creating new things. They might be smugglers or schemers, letting them get money or items past whoever they need to. Or, they might be legitimately wanting to become a master of their craft. Does mastery of Transmutation lead to a good Wizard? Let’s find out in our Transmutation Wizard 5e Guide.
Craft Your Form: Transmutation Wizard 5E
The Transmutation Wizard is the most oddly designed wizard archetypes in this class. It has a single ability that relies on casting transmutation magic – other than the Savant feature, which barely qualifies as part of the subclass. The rest are utility abilities whose power level varies from pathetic to fantastic. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do a good job ensuring that you’ll be better at Transmutation than any other Wizard… So, you might want to consider choosing any other school and selecting some Transmutation wizard spells.
This is it; the only ability that relies on Transmutation spells. And…
Beginning when you select this school at 2nd level, the gold and time you must spend to copy a Transmutation spell into your spellbook is halved.
So, there are quite a few bright sides here. Transmutation is one of the most numerous schools for spells in the entire game, especially for Wizards. Transmutation is also home to the most buffs, from Fly to Haste. A lot of those buffs are extremely important for you to get, so you might find a higher-level spellbook and get them at a discount!
But, for the same reasons, you need to guarantee that you get some of those really important buffs. Fly is essential to any adventuring party, and you’ll be the one getting rid of problems with Flesh to Stone or Reverse Gravity. Make sure you naturally learn the spells that are really essential for you, and then hope that you can find spellbooks or libraries in the future to save a few spells known.
This ability is exactly as good as the GM lets it be. So… Hope you fight someone who knows Fly before level 5.
I don’t like the sound of this name; it sounds like your 2nd level ability is just a cantrip or something…
Starting at 2nd level when you select this school, you can temporarily alter the physical properties of one nonmagical object, changing it from one substance into another. You perform a special alchemical procedure on one object composed entirely of wood, stone (but not a gemstone), iron, copper, or silver, transforming it into a different one of those materials. For each 10 minutes you spend performing the procedure, you can transform up to 1 cubic foot of material. After 1 hour, or until you lose your concentration (as if you were concentrating on a spell), the material reverts to its original substance.
So, the problem with this is myriad. At level 2, Wizards are looking for either different ways to deal damage or something defensive; you usually have between 7 and 12 health at this level, so you want ways to either take out threats or make things less threatening. Unfortunately, a 10-minute ritual to transform 1 cubic foot of material is neither defensive nor offensive.
Instead it’s not that useful.
Because of it’s gigantic casting time, you can only use this during long periods of out-of-combat time. It’s tricky to use this in a dungeon at all, since it’s such a massive pain to concentrate on it – too many of your good buffs take up Concentration. The only time this is useful in a dungeon is when 1) you’re guaranteed not to get ambushed and 2) you need to transform a non-magical object to something easier to break or something. You could theoretically use it on a wall in order to make it easier to cut through… if you can keep yourself away from enemies for an hour or so.
You could also use this to make some money by transforming copper into silver. If you are attempting to escape chains or a cell then turning metal into wood could be useful. The combination of casting time, concentration, and time limitations make this so hard to use. Your level 2 lifestyle is gonna be really rough unless you have a cool DM and find yourself in some pretty specific circumstances.
Thankfully, at level 6, you finally get something great! You can craft a transmuter’s stone which you can give to anyone; Only one (of yours) can be in existence at a time. Whoever holds it benefits from one of these options;
- Darkvision out to a range of 60 feet
- An increase to speed of 10 feet while the creature is unencumbered
- Proficiency in Constitution saving throws
- Resistance to acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage (your choice whenever you choose this benefit)
This is the only ability other than the Savant skill that relies on transmutation spells. Every time you use a Transmutation spell, you can change the buff… If the stone is on you.
This is a pretty fantastic ability. You’re going to want to keep it on yourself most of the time, unless an ally plans on doing a duel or something. That’s because the buffs help you so much. Darkvision is great, unless you already have it. 10 ft movement speed is rare to find on a Wizard, and can be granted to Fly speed. Proficiency in Constitution saves normally takes a feat to get, and here you are, getting it for free. And the resistances are situational, but when the situation comes, they essentially double your health.
All of these can be gotten simply through Transmutation spells, but that means you get a spell slot on you permanently. That’s a big deal!
You’re going to want to choose something that isn’t Darkvision; magical lights, your race, or something else should be able to handle the lighting of the battlefield. Constitution saves are just so nice to have high. A lot of Con-based effects deal big damage, or stop you from acting through debuffs. It also lets you more easily concentrate on your buff spells.
Casting transmutation spells isn’t hard. There’s a few Transmutation spells – like Catapult – which are just simple damage spells. And some of your buffs are pretty easy to swap in and out of, too. You’ll want to switch to Resistances if you’re fighting dragons, elementals, or casters (that are specializing!). Movement speed looks nice, but you should be using Misty Step or other teleportation skills to get out of bad situations. You can still use a Transmutation spell to swap to movement speed if it’s critical to do so.
Feel free to give this to an ally if you think you won’t be hit at all in the fight, such as against swarms of enemies that don’t have ranged attacks or magic. That’ll be rare, though; default to yourself whenever possible.
Back to mediocrity!
At 10th level, you add the Polymorph spell to your spellbook, if it is not there already. You can cast Polymorph without expending a spell slot. When you do so, you can target only yourself and transform into a beast whose challenge rating is 1 or lower.
Once you cast Polymorph in this way, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest, though you can still cast it normally using an available spell slot.
So, learning Polymorph for free isn’t bad. It’s an important, versatile spell that can stop enemies and turn allies into threats. You’d want it at level 7, but if you’re willing to wait three levels, then here it is!
So, you get to cast Polymorph (an offensive spell) on yourself for free once per rest… there’re a few problems. CR 1 creatures are a little bit weak, but a lot of them are small and stealthy. That means you can be pretty good at sneaking around. Do you know what else would have been good for gathering information? The Divination school. And that doesn’t put you in danger…
Nor does it reduce your Intelligence to 2. Depending on your GM, dropping your Intelligence that low could make it hard for your allies to convince you to scout. You could use it as a health shield; a Tiger or Brown Bear gives nearly 40 HP. But, every hit forces you to make a Concentration check. Make sure your Stone is on Constitution saves! Also, make sure your GM doesn’t use the low Intelligence argument against you during combat.
Polymorph is one of the best Wisdom-based saves in the game; turning an enemy demigod into a newt just feels powerful, and it is powerful in practice. Using it on yourself is less impressive, especially when you replace your mental stats – The power of this ability can be weakened by your GM, and honestly… Druids do this so, so much better.
Your final, level 14 ability allows you to break your stone to gain one of the following effects.
- Major Transformation. You can transmute one nonmagical object – no larger than a 5-foot cube – into another nonmagical object of similar size and mass and of equal or lesser value. You must spend 10 minutes handling the object to transform it.
- Panacea. You remove all curses, diseases, and poisons affecting a creature that you touch with the transmuter’s stone. The creature also regains all its hit points.
- Restore Life. You cast the Raise Dead spell on a creature you touch with the transmuter’s stone, without expending a spell slot or needing to have the spell in your spellbook.
- Restore Youth. You touch the transmuter’s stone to a willing creature, and that creature’s apparent age is reduced by 3d10 years, to a minimum of 13 years. This effect doesn’t extend the creature’s lifespan.
Holy crap, imagine breaking your buff stone and spending 8 hours of your life, just to use your level 2 ability faster…
Breaking your Transmuter’s Stone is pretty rough. It means that you’re dedicating yourself to 8 more hours of sitting there, building something. Pretty high punishment! Thankfully, there’s 2 effects here that are super worthwhile.
Panacea is incredibly strong. It casts Heal and removes more than Greater Restoration on a target of your choice. Realistically, you’re probably using this to remove just 1 curse, 1 disease, or 1 poison on someone… But, sometimes your Barbarian just has a really rough day. In which case, you’ll be super happy! The potential healing value on Panacea is ridiculous.
Restore Life isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. It lets your Cleric save a single spell slot per day, since you still need to have the money to resurrect the person. Raise Dead is also an awful combat spell, since it reduces the target’s ability to fight by so much. If your cleric just has to save that slot for something more important, or just forgot to bring Revivify or something, then you have a good emergency option.
As I joked earlier, Major Transformation is garbage. It’s almost worse than your level 2 ability. Why they force you to hold it for 10 minutes is staggering to me. You’re already dedicating yourself to 8 hours of work to restore the transmuter’s stone. Why not just spend 50 minutes to use your Minor Alchemy? There’s some upsides, like transmuting a diamond door to have a wooden hole in it, but… Good grief. Your transmuter’s stone deserves better!
Restore Youth should be pretty obviously bad. It doesn’t even reverse magical aging; it just makes the person look younger. That’s abysmal! There’re so few situations where that could even possibly matter. If it does, just use Alter Self, or a Disguise check!
Save this for Panacea, or an emergency heal. This costs 16 hours to get back, so make it worth your while.
Best Race for Transmutation School Wizards
If you’re going through with this, make sure you have high Intelligence. Then, make sure your defensive stats are high; Dexterity and Constitution will keep you afloat.
The Elemental Evil Player’s Companion has a decent option for you. Fire Genasi gain +2 Con, +1 Intelligence, some fire-based utility spells, Darkvision, and Fire resistance. That narrows down the direction of your buffs from your Transmuter’s stone, meaning you can save some spell slots if you just needed to switch your buff. That’s just pure efficiency!
Conclusion – Our Transmutation Wizard 5E Guide
The Transmutation Wizard is so strangely designed. It doesn’t make transmutation more effective when used on yourself, it doesn’t really do anything that spell slots give you… It’s just slight spell efficiency. The only really useful abilities are focused around your Stone. In all other senses… You’re just like any other wizard. If you’re a big rock fan and don’t mind being a bit weaker than most other subclasses at the level 2 and 10 spikes – and still a bit weaker at the 6 and 14 spikes – then go for it.