Magic is a common theme in D&D. While each casting class derives their power from a different source, wizards master the arcane through knowledge. These casters have the most spell options and can fill a variety of roles in any party. Let’s jump right into the full class breakdown with our Wizard 5E Guide.
The Complete Wizard 5E Guide
Wizards come in many varieties. They can dish out tremendous damage, heal the party, or focus on an array of utility options. Each of them derives their power from the same place though. Through the study of ancient texts, wizards use exotic materials, spoken word, and dramatic gestures to bend reality.
Some classes – like the cleric – can split their focus between combat, spellcasting, or other utility actions. For the wizard, it’s all about the spells. This class can accomplish plenty, but only through wielding their arcane power.
As a wizard, you gain the following class features. These features are the building blocks of every wizard, but they only paint part of the picture. Your school of wizardly will also play a critical role in developing your wizard character.
Hit Dice: 1d6 per wizard level
HP at 1st Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier
HP at Higher Levels: 1d6 (or 4) + your Constitution modifier per wizard level after 1st
Weapons: Daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows
Saving Throws: Intelligence, Wisdom
Skills: Choose two from Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, and Religion
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- a quarterstaff or a dagger
- component pouch or arcane focus
- a scholar’s pack or an explorer’s pack
- a spellbook
In other words, your starting weapons options are pretty sad. The good news is that you’ll have cantrips you can rely on. I generally suggest to take the dagger over the quarterstaff. A staff might be flavorful, but it’s not useful. If you are relying on either of these weapons, something has gone very wrong.
The one weapon that is important at low levels is one that is only available through buying equipment with starting gold. The light crossbow gives you a ranged attack that is stronger than your ranged cantrips until level 5.
Arcane Recovery (Level 1)
For some classes, once you expend a spell slot they are gone for the rest of the day. Not so for the wizard! With Arcane Recovery, you can recover a number of spell slots equal to or less than half your Wizard level, rounded up. None of these slots can be higher than 5th level. For example, level 10 Wizard could recover one 5th level slots, five 1st level slots, or some other combination.
Arcane Tradition (Level 2)
Starting at level two, you must select your arcane tradition. This is an important choice, as your archetype will play a large role in shaping your character. In fact, wizards get the vast majority of their powers through the tradition as opposed to through their class selection. Keep reading for a thorough review of all the arcane traditions below.
Spell Mastery (Level 18)
At level 18, you can cast certain spells at will. You are limited to selecting one 1st level spell and one 2nd level spell that you have in your spellbook. As long as you have the spell prepared, you can cast it without expending a spell slot. Keep in mind you can only cast these spells at their lowest level. By studying for 8 hours, you can swap these spells out for other options in your spellbook.
Signature Spells (Level 20)
Similar to Spell Mastery, this feature allows you to choose two 3rd level spells from your spellbook. You can cast these spells without expending a spell slot. The spells are always prepared and do not count against your list of prepared spells each day. Once you cast the spells, you cannot do so again without a short or long rest.
Given the depth of magical ability wizards have, it should probably come as no surprise that they have the most complex spellcasting mechanics. Unlike every other caster save the artificer, wizards use Intelligence as their spellcasting ability. You will use your intelligence modifier plus your proficiency bonus when making making spell attack roles, and the ability also comes into play when determining your spell DC.
Like with every casting class, wizards have a certain number of spell slots available in addition to their wizard cantrips. Casting a spell at a particular level expends the spell slot, which is regained with a long rest.
You can only cast spells that you have prepared. Often, these spells only make up a small part of the total number of spells within your spellbook. You can prepare as many spells equal to the number intelligence modifier plus your wizard level. If you have not prepared a spell on a given day, you cannot cast it. After each long rest, you can change your list of prepared spells.
Casting these spells does not remove it from your list of prepared spells, meaning you can use them more than once. In fact, you could choose to use every spell slot you have on the same first level spell, if you want.
When you prepare your spells each day, you are limited to those written in your spellbook. You start with two spells in your book, and you gain two more each level of wizard you achieve. You can also add new spells when you discover them during adventures. Copying spells into your spellbook takes time and gold, however.
For every level of spell, it takes 2 hours and costs 50 GP to copy a spell from a scroll into your book. Once it is in your book, you can use it like another other spell you already have.
If you lose your spellbook, all is not lost. You can recreate it from scratch, but you must pay the time and gold price as if you were copying each spell.
Wizards can make use of ritual spells. Certain spells have the Ritual tag, which means you can cast them even if you do not have them prepared. You can learn more about ritual casting with our guide to Ritual Spells.
Wizards can use certain items to cast spells through. These are known as an arcane focus. An arcane focus – which is a form of spellcasting focus – eliminates the need for any spell components outside of those that require gold. Essentially, it replaces the need for a component pouch.
The classic arcane focus for a wizard is a wand, but you can use any non-weapon item including a rod, orb, or crystal.
Wizard Subclasses – Arcane Traditions
With a whopping 12 arcane traditions, the wizard blows every other class away when it comes to archetypes. Like with all classes, there are some winners and losers here. Choose wisely, as a wizard’s arcane tradition is a vital part of their build.
A defensive-minded school of magic, Abjuration has a long reputation for being a weak arcane tradition. That might have been the case in other versions, but in 5E Abjuration is surprisingly strong.
- Abjuration Savant (Level 2). The gold and time cost of copying a spell into your spellbook is halved.
- Arcane Ward (Level 2). Arcane Ward allows you to cast a defensive ward at the same time you cast an aberration spell at 1st level or higher. The ward essentially gives you temporary hit points. However, since they are technically not, they stack with temporary HP.
- Projected Ward (Level 6). At level 6, you can absorb damage taken by any creature within 30 feet you can see.
- Improved Abjuration (Level 10). This allows you to add your proficiency bonus to any ability check that is part of casting an abjuration spell. This is typically used as a buff to Counterspell.
- Spell Resistance (Level 14). YOu get advantage on saving throws against spells and have resistance against spell damage.
The Complete Bladesinger 5E Guide
First introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, the Bladesinger is the WOTC attempt at creating a melee wizard. This archetype is restricted to Elves only. While interesting, this subclass badly struggles due to the need to spread points among three abilities.
- Training in War and Song (Level 2). With this, you gain proficiency with light armor and a single one-handed melee weapon. This is a nice addition for a spellcaster.
- Bladesong (Level 2). The Bladesong grants you speed, agility, and focus as long as you are not wearing medium or heavy armor. As a bonus action, you gain a boost to your AC, walking speed, and dexterity among other things. You can use this twice per short rest.
- Extra Attack (Level 6). You gain a second attack action on your turn. By this point, however, your cantrips will likely do much more damage.
- Song of Defense (Level 10). When Bladesong is active, you can use a spell slot reduce damage equal to five times that slot’s level.
- Song of Victory (Level 14). This adds your intelligence modifier to your melee damage rolls when Bladesong is active. Not bad, but Level 14 is pretty late in the game for this boost.
See our Complete Chronurgy 5E Guide!
Chronurgy is one of two schools of Dunamis magic introduced in the Adventurer’s Guide to Wildemount. While manipulating time is a fantastic use of your arcane abilities, this type of magic technically does not exist outside of Wildemount campaigns.
- Chronal Shift (level 2). By manipulating the flow of time, you can make a creature within 30 feet you can see re-roll an attack, ability check, or saving throw. This is available twice per long rest.
- Temporal Awareness (Level 2). This adds your intelligence modifier to initiative rolls.
- Momentary Stasis (Level 6). Using an action, you can force any creature size large or smaller that is within 60 feet of you to make a constitution save against your spell DC. This incapacitates the target and reduces their speed to zero until the end of your next turn or until they take damage.
- Arcane Abeyance (Level 10). Arcane Abeyance is pretty unique. It allows you to store a spell in a bead for up to an hour. You or another creature can use this bead to cast the spell. This lets you pass of a one-time spell to an ally while you focus on other actions.
- Convergent Future (Level 14). You get to use a reaction when another creature within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. You then get to ignore the roll and decide if it fails or not. Unfortunately, you gain a level of exhaustion each time you use this.
See our School of Conjuration Guide
Conjurers use their magic to bring creatures, elements, and items onto the battlefield to aid them. While it has its hiccups, it is a surprisingly strong class. Conjuration wizards have a fun selection of creatures they can summon, but they also deal some serious damage and offer handy utility spells.
- Conjuration Savant (Level 2). The time and gold you spend copying a Conjuration spell into your spellbook is halved.
- Minor Conjuration (Level 2). This allows you to use an action to conjure an inanimate object. This object must be a nonmagical item you have seen that is less than 3 feet on a side and 10 pounds in weight. It lasts for 1 hour or until it takes damage.
- Benign Transportation (Level 6). At level 6, conjures can teleport up to 30 feet to any unoccupied space they can see. You can also swap places with a willing creature. This works once per long rest.
- Focused Conjuration (Level 10). With Focused Conjuration, you don’t lose concentration on a conjuration spell when taking damage.
- Durable Summons (Level 14). The creatures you summon with conjuration spells gain 30 temporary hit points.
See the Complete School of Divination Guide
The School of Divination represents the classic ‘seers’ of the magical world. This school is primarily focused on utility instead of combat, but it can help a party avoid bad rolls in addition to other benefits in combat.
- Divination Savant (level 2). The time and gold you spend copying a Divination spell is cut in half.
- Portent (Level 2). After each long rest, roll 2d20 and write down those rolls. You can use these rolls instead of making an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. However, you must decide to do it before you make that roll.
- Expert Divination (Level 6). The highlight of the class is Expert Divination, and you get it at level 6. Every time you cast a deviation spell at level 2 or higher, you gain an expended spell slot back. This lost is a level lower than the spell you cast and cannot be higher than level 5.
- The Third Eye (Level 10). Each short or long rest, you can choose from Darkvision, sight into the ethereal plane, the ability to read any language, or to see invisible creatures or objects.
- Greater Portent (Level 14). At Level 14 you get three Portent rolls instead of two.
See our Enchantment Wizard 5E Guide
While the prospect of enchanting other people or monsters sounds like fun, the School of Enchantment has some issues. These include a weak high-level ability that relies on Charisma as well as other effects that require you to be in melee range.
- Enchantment Savant (Level 2). The gold and time you must spend to copy an enchantment spell into your spellbook is cut in half.
- Hypnotic Gaze (Level 2). As an action, you can charm a creature within 5 feet of you if they fail a Wisdom throw. You can maintain the effect with an action, but you must stay within 5 feet of the creature. Getting in melee range is usually not a great idea for a wizard, so this one is a mixed bag.
- Instinctive Charm (Level 6). You can make a creature within 30 feet of you divert their attack against you to someone else. However, this is only possible if there is another target within their attack range. the target must make a wisdom save, and if they pass you cannot use this again until you take a long rest.
- Split Enchantment (Level 10). This great option allows you to use an enchantment spell that targets a single creature to target two instead.
- Alter Memories (Level 14). Alter Memories allows you to charm a creature without them knowing it. You can also make them forget some of the time they were charmed, but only if they succeed in an intelligence check. They lose a number of hours equal to 1 + your charisma modifier, which makes this effect pretty weak if charisma is a dump stat for you.
Check Out Our Evocation Wizard Guide
For many, Evocation is a favorite among wizard schools. After all, what is cooler than a wizard that is out there blasting bad guys with fireballs and whatnot? Evocation is about dealing damage, and it certainly excels at that task.
- Evocation Savant (Level 2). The cost of copying an evocation spell into your spellbook is halved, both in terms of gold and time.
- Sculpt Spells (Level 2). Each time you cast an evocation spell, you can choose a number of creatures equal to 1 plus the spell’s level that are protected from the effects of the spell. If the spell requires a saving throw, these creatures automatically succeed. What’s more, when a successful save calls for half damage, that creature takes zero damage instead. This is great for casting fireball with friendlies nearby.
- Potent Cantrip (Level 6). Creatures that succeed on a save against a damaging cantrip you cast take half damage, even if the spell doe snot call for it. Super situational, since only two cantrips apply.
- Empowered Evocation (Level 10). Empowered Evocation increases the damage your evocation spell deals by your intelligence modifier.
- Overchannel (Level 14). With Overchannel, you can choose to deal the maximum possible damage for any wizard spell at level 5 or below that you cast instead of rolling damage. If you use this more than once without taking a long rest, you take significant necrotic damage.
See Our Guide to Graviturgy in 5E
Graviturgy is the second form of Dunamis magic that comes from the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. Bending the will of gravity is a cool concept, although there are some weaknesses to the mechanics of this subclass.
- Adjust Density (Level 2). This lets you alter the weight of an object or creature within 30 feet of you. You can double or halve the target’s weight for up to a minute or as long as concentration is maintained.
- Gravity Well (Level 6). In addition to the normal effects of a spell, you can use Gravity Well to move the target five to an unoccupied space. This possible against a willing creature, after a successful spell attack roll, or upon a failed save.
- Violent Attraction (Level 10). Violent Attraction allows you to increase the damage to a target you can see that is hit by a weapon attack or takes fall damage. You can use this feature equal to the number of your intelligence modifier.
- Event Horizon (Level 14). This area of control effect is great, except for the fact that you have to be in center of it. Event Horizon lets you expend an action to make every creature that starts a turn within 30 feet of you to make a strength saving throw. A fail deals 2d10 force damage and reduces the target’s movement to zero. This can be used again finishing a long rest or expending a spell slot at level 3 or higher.
Where Evocation can be straightforward and uninteresting, Illusion is wide-open and offers unlimited creativity. What you do with this wizard school is up to you, but it offers a lot of potential to be powerful.
- Illusion Savant (Level 2). The gold and time you must spend to copy an illusion spell into your spellbook is halved.
- Improved Minor Illusion (Level 2). Choosing this school grants you the Minor Illusion cantrip. If you already know it, you get a different wizard cantrip of your choice. It does not count against your known cantrips limit. You also can create both a sound and an image when casting.
- Malleable Illusion (Level 6). For illusion spells that last at least one minute, you can alter the image as if to animate it.
- Illusory Self (Level 10). This allows you to create an illusion of yourself to confuse attackers. It makes a creature automatically miss an attack against you, and can be used again after a short or long rest. Awesome option for a vulnerable wizard.
- Illusory Reality (Level 14). Each time you cast an illusion spell at level 1 or higher, you can choose a nonmagical, inanimate part of that spell to make real. This can be done as a bonus action once the spell has been cast. While this can’t damage other creatures, it can provide an array of other benefits like allowing you to escape or caging an enemy.
Check Out Our School of Necromancy 5E Guide
Necromancy is the power over death; the power to manipulate the energy that animates living creatures. This is a powerful school of magic, and the ability to bring an army of undead pals is inherently awesome. Not all of these features are excellent, but it’s a cool subclass.
- Necromancy Savant (Level 2). Like most wizard schools, the gold and time cost of copying a necromancy spell into your spellbook is halved.
- Grim Harvest (Level 2). Once per turn, you can regain hit points when you kill another creature using a spell. the amount of hitpoints increases when using a necromancy spell.
- Undead Thralls (Level 6). One cornerstone of this school is the ability to create an army of undead. You gain Animate Dead if you didn’t already have it, and you can target an additional corpse with the spell. Additionally, your thralls add your proficiency bonus to their weapon damage rolls and see an HP increase equal to your wizard level.
- Inured to Undeath (Level 10). You are resistant to necrotic damage and your HP can’t be reduced. This is largely situational but can be big in the right campaign.
- Command Undead (Level 14). This allows you to control undead that you did not create. Any undead within 60 feet must succeed on a Charisma saving throw or fall under your control.
See Our School of Transmutation Guide
The School of Transmutation centers on the ability to modify energy and matter. Unfortunately, this class has a host of issues that makes it the worst option available. Nearly everything this subclass is designed to do can be better accomplished with another class or wizard school. It’s not all bad, though, as the Transmuter’s Stone is pretty interesting.
- Transmutation Savant (Level 2). The gold and time you must spend to copy a transmutation spell into your spellbook is halved.
- Minor Alchemy (Level 2). You can spend 10 minutes transforming an item of wood, stone, iron, copper, or silver into one of the other four listed substances. This effect lasts an hour or until you lose your concentration, then the item reverts back. Not useful.
- Transmuter’s Stone (Level 6). You can spend 8 hours creating a transmuter’s stone. Any creature possessing the stone gets the benefits you selected for it during creation. These benefits include your choice of Darkvision, proficiency in Constitution saving throws, speed increases, or damage resistances. This feature is good, but not enough to save the subclass.
- Shapechanger (Level 10). You gain the Polymorph spell and can cast it without expending a spell slot.
- Master Transmuter (Level 14). You can use an action and consume your transmuter’s stone. When you do so, you can choose from four different benefits including transmuting a nonmagical object, casting Raise Dead, removing curses or disease, or reducing a creature’s apparent age.
See Our Guide to War Magic Wizards
War magic is a little bit of evocation and a little bit of abjuration magic. The focus is on casting in battle, but the features of this subclass lean a little more towards defense than offense. Ultimately, this is a strong option that doesn’t get a lot of attention.
- Arcane Deflection (Level 2). When you are hit by an attack or fail a save, you can use your reaction to increase your AC by 2 against the attack or add +4 to the save roll. When using Arcane Deflection, you can only cast cantrips until the end of your next turn.
- Tactical Wit (Level 2). This allows you to add your Intelligence modifier as a bonus to initiative rolls.
- Power Surge (Level 6). The weakest part of War Magic is Power Surge. You can use a power surge once per turn when you deal damage to another creature, adding half your wizard level to that damage. You begin with one Surge, and you can gain another one every time you successfully end a spell with Dispel Magic or Counterspell. Your surges reset to 1 after a long rest. After a short rest with zero surges, you regain 1. This is weak given the anemic damage, plus the limited situations where you can obtain surges.
- Durable Magic (Level 10). A great option for casting spells in battle, you gain +2 to your AC while maintaining concentration on a spell. You also gain a +2 bonus on all saving throws.
- Deflecting Shroud (Level 14). At level 14, you get an offensive boost to Arcane Deflection. Up to three creatures within 60 feet that you choose take force damage equal to half your wizard level when you use Arcane Deflection. The damage is low, but this can be pretty useful in large fights.
Wizard 5E Optimization Guide
How much you optimize your wizard is really up to your playstyle. I personally enjoy squeezing the most out of each build. that said, worrying about having a perfectly optimal wizard character is not worth getting in the way of a good time. Below, we review our tips for optimizing your wizard character.
Wizards are nice in that they can function with a single high ability – Intelligence. Every aspect of this class centers around intelligence, unless you are a Bladesinger.
Dump stat. Outside of strength saves or avoiding grappling, don’t waste your time.
A little dexterity is important for your Armor Class. This becomes vital if you are a Bladesinger.
You can make a strong case for Constitution to be your second-highest ability. Any ability to become a little less squishy is good.
Your bread and butter. Get this to 20 as soon as possible. In fact, get this above 20 as soon as possible.
You likely want some Wisdom for saving throws, but that’s about it.
Best Races for Wizard 5E
I am a big proponent that you would weigh fun over-optimization. Many players are afraid to use a suboptimal racial choice, but the reality is any race can work. After all, a high-level wizard from a suboptimal race will be far more powerful than a lower level wizard from a race that is a better fit. That said, we have compiled some of the races that are the best fit for the wizard class, particularly at low levels.
- Elf. If you want to be a Bladesinger, elf is your only option. However, it is not a bad choice for a wizard otherwise. High Elves are especially strong, as you get a boost to Intelligence and a free cantrip.
- Gnome. A Gnome gets +2 to intelligence which can’t be beat as far as starting abilities go. Gnome cunning and Darkvision are also nice. If you choose a Forest Gnome you get a useful Dexterity boost plus a free cantrip.
- Human. As we discuss frequently in these guides, humans are good at everything. For a wizard, your best bet is the variant type, as a +1 to your non-intelligence skills is a waste. There are also feats that are a good fit for wizards, making variant humans a great choice.
- Tiefling. A bonus to intelligence and access to Thaumaturgy makes for a pretty interesting wizard.
- Dwarf. You don’t get anything with intelligence here, but the boost to HP is not bad. The same is true for Mountain Dwarves, as it gets you access to medium armor.
- Half-Elf. Half-Elf is one of the strongest races in the game, and you can net a small intelligence boost. A Drow wizard is also nice thanks to the free spells, but it may not be worth the downsides that come with that subrace.
- Aaracokra. Flight is always cool, but suddenly doesn’t matter much when you can just cast a spell to fly.
- Yuan-Ti Pureblood. A small boost in Intelligence is nice, but +2 for charisma is wasted. You also get Darkvision and some innate spellcasting, but you have to use Charisma as your ability for those spells.
In general, backgrounds net you new skills, equipment, and languages. Equipment mean little to your wizard, and languages are no more important than for any other character. Plus, you can usually deal with language barriers using magic. Access to skills is important, though, as wizards otherwise only start with two. Using that criteria, we have provided some of our favorite background options for Wizards in 5E.
Two new languages and the Religion skill isn’t bad. While Insight isn’t intelligence-based, it is useful. This is a decent option.
Arguably the best option available. Not only do you get two new languages, you also pick up the History skill plus your choice of Arcana, Nature, or Religion.
Two Intelligence skills are nice, but you don’t get any languages.
The classic choice for wizards. In fact, this is the background that is suggested in the PHB. Sages gets you two languages and two Intelligence skills, which is about as good as it gets.
Suggest Feats for Wizards
Whether or not a feat is a good option for your wizard depends on your build, but in most cases simply pumping your Intelligence as fast as possible will always be your best option. That said, there are a few wizard feats that can make sense for you.
- Observant. Lots to like here. You get +1 to Intelligence, a +5 to your passive investigation or perception, and you can read lips. Nice.
- Spell Sniper. If your wizard is a blaster, Spell Sniper is a nice option. It doubles the range for spells that require attack rolls. You also ignore half and three-quarters cover. You can also take your pick of a free cantrip with an attack roll. However, you have to use the spellcasting ability of the class the spell originates from.
- War Caster. While you really shouldn’t be anywhere near actual combat when casting, War Caster can help you keep your spells going even when you take damage.
Some classes excel at multiclassing more than others. The Wizard is not one of those classes. For a variety of reasons, I generally shy away from ever multiclassing a wizard. High-level wizard features are amazing, and the few reasons to multiclass usually require a multi-level dip. Still, we have provided some of the best options for multiclassing your wizard if that’s what you’re into.
Good Multiclassing Options for Wizard
This isn’t a bad fit mechanically at all. Whether or not it makes sense for your Eberron campaign is a different story, though. Artificers are the only other intelligence-based spellcasters, so you don’t have to worry about stat spread. The benefits are real though. Medium armor, shields, and low-level healing spells fill specific needs for a wizard and you only need to dip one level to get them.
The only reason to multiclass into a fighter is to nab Action Surge. While this is a powerful option, it’s tough to say if it is worth it since you need two levels of fighter. That means giving up a ton of wizarding abilities to get extra actions each day.
- Barbarian. Keep your wizard away from frontline combat.
- Bard. Stat spread makes this multiclass a bad fit.
- Cleric. Although this is a way to get some armor, wisdom-based spells make this a bad option.
- Druid. Stat spread makes this a no go.
- Monk. Way too much stat spread.
- Paladin. Smites are a cool option, but otherwise a weird fit.
- Ranger. Nothing about this is worth a dip.
- Rogue. There is a case to be made for a stealthy wizard, but probably not worth it.
- Sorcerer. Metamagic is a nice fit for a wizard, but Charisma casting is not.
- Warlock. A single level gets you a lot of spells, but they are generally pretty weak while multiclassing.
Concluding our Wizard 5E Guide
That wraps up our Wizard 5E Handbook. This is a fun class with a lot of varying options. No matter how you go with your next character, we hope this guide proves to be helpful!