Bladesinger 5e Guide
Published on December 23, 2022, Last modified on September 21st, 2023
In this post, we will be examining the Bladsinger’s class features and how you can optimize your Bladsinger through choosing your race, background, ability scores, feats, and spells.
Anna Steinbauer - Wizards of the Coast - Rowan Kenrith
Bladesinger 5e Guide Rating Scheme
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the Bladesinger Wizard subclass. For a full overview of the Wizard class, check out our wizard 5e Guide.
For our full class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:
- Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
- Orange Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
- Green is a good option
- Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
- Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized
For our subclass guides, we focus mainly on the Blue and Sky Blue options, because the other options are discussed in the parent guide or other subclass guides. We also discuss options that normally would be good for a typical build, but underperform when used in a subclass.
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What is a Bladesinger in 5e?
Have you ever played a wizard and thought to yourself, “Sometimes, I dream of charging into battle with the fighters and barbarians, laughing in the face of danger”? Enter the Bladesinger.
Well versed in both spell and sword, Bladesingers are suitable for many roles on the battlefield. Whether you want to focus on crowd control, damage, or pulling the enemy’s attention off of your weaker party members, the Bladesinger has you covered. At their core, they are still primarily wizards, but they can also dish out some decent melee damage.
Bladesingers keep up with the spellcasting prowess of just about any wizard, with the added benefit of a melee weapon proficiency and greatly enhanced survivability. This opens up some very interesting ways to build and play the class, since Bladesingers can easily boost their AC into the 20s. Combined with some defensive spells and great mobility, the Bladesinger can whip around the battlefield untouched.
All in all, Bladesingers are a unique take on the wizard class and are a blast to play. While many subclasses of the wizard feel “samey”, the Bladesinger breathes new life into one of D&D’s most iconic classes.
Bladesingers are cool, but they definitely are not the strongest or most optimized wizard subclass. Most wizards are only concerned with raising their INT score, ensuring that you can raise your other stats to a comfortable level. As a Bladesinger, you will need to have a good DEX score in addition to INT for boosts to AC and attacks. When enemies are more consistently getting through your AC, especially at higher levels, the low hit points of the Bladesinger can become a liability.
Training in War and Song: Proficiency in Performance may be useless, but proficiency in light armor and a one-handed melee weapon is what sets the Bladesinger apart from the other wizard subclasses. Studded Leather won’t be quite as effective as mage armor, but saves a spell slot and a prepared spell for something more useful. At higher levels, when you have more spell slots to work with and a +5 to DEX, mage armor will outshine any Light Armor enough to be worth using.
Bladesong: Pairs nicely with Training in War and Song. Bladesong gives you a whole bunch of buffs while lasting for a whole minute. Because the number of uses (with the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything) now scales with your proficiency bonus and is only reset with a long rest, it is weaker than it used to be at low levels and much better at a high level. The bonus to AC and CON saves to maintain concentration is especially spicy if you cast haste on yourself.
Extra Attack: The most notable update to the Bladesinger subclass in Tasha’s is the change to Extra Attack. Having the choice to use a cantrip in the place of one of your attacks is really cool and can be combined in interesting and powerful ways. You could choose to replace one attack with booming blade or green-flame blade, thereby still getting in two attacks for the round. Or, if you finished off your opponent with your first sword attack, you still have the option to shoot a fire bolt at an enemy further away.
Song of Defense: Song of Defense is another way to keep your squishy Bladesinger alive. If an incoming attack would cut through your shield spell, this will at least reduce the damage. Unfortunately, 5 hit points per spell slot isn’t very efficient when compared to the healing granted by cure wounds. But, that’s the trade off you get for being able to use this as a reaction and with guaranteed results.
Song of Victory: At 20 INT and if both your weapon attacks connect this is an extra 10 damage. Not overly impressive, but anything to make your melee attacks more viable is a welcome addition.
The Basics of Playing a Bladesinger
Most Bladesingers are faced with a difficult decision. “Do I use the weapon and extra attacks the Bladesinger’s features grant me instead of casting spells, even if it’s technically unoptimized?” As martial spellcasters, Bladesingers are faced with the same question as Hexblade, and melee clerics, “why would I waste my action attacking when I can cast fireball and deal way more damage.
Bladesingers that are looking to get down and dirty in combat may want to consider multiclassing to get access to more hit points and attacks. For suggestions on multiclassing, see the Bladesinger Multiclass section of our guide.
Bladesingers that are content to use their subclass features as bonuses to their ranged spellcasting playstyle will find solid boosts to AC without having to dedicate resources to mage armor and increased ability to maintain concentration without relying on War Caster or Resilient (CON).
With the potent spellcasting of a wizard, combined with enhanced melee abilities, there are plenty of different playstyle options for your Bladesinger.
The most common Bladesinger playstyle. After all, why choose this subclass if you’re not going to throw a couple sword thrusts in there? These builds stack into DEX not only for AC, but also for their attacks. Seeing as Bladesingers can’t wield shields and benefit from Bladesong, they tend to dual wield finesse weapons. If you want to go for a dual wield build, you’ll be best off going with shortswords, as they are the highest damage-dealing finesse weapons. Otherwise, you could pick up the Dual Wielder feat and use rapiers.
As you will see below in our To Gish or Not To Gish section, the changes made to the Bladesinger in Tasha’s allow this option to output some serious melee damage using the Bladesinger’s Extra Attack feature and GFB. The reason for this is the terminology of the ability lets you take an attack and cast a cantrip when you use the Attack action. Not only does the balance the opportunity cost of using cantrips instead of attacks, but it also allows you to use two-weapon fighting to bonus action attack with your offhand rapier.
Maybe you just want a bit of survivability, a boost to your concentration, and a light armor proficiency on your blaster caster. The Bladesinger works perfectly fine as a caster that doesn’t get involved in martial combat. In this case, you still want to pop your Bladesong when entering tough combat, but likely won’t be making use of your one-handed weapon.
Funnily enough, a Bladesinger with a hand crossbow is an extremely effective build, with proper setup. Crossbow Expert is all but required because you definitely want to be able to get your second attack off. This feat will also allow you to make use of your bonus action by attacking with a second hand crossbow, if you feel so inclined.
In general, this option is a perfect mix of the Bladesingers strengths (mobility, martial options, single target damage output, versatility of a wizard) while mitigating some of the downsides (survivability). It’s not uncommon to dip into fighter or ranger to pick up the Archery Fighting Style and invest in the Sharpshooter feat to maximize this option.
Now, here me out on this one. If you choose the tortle race you can spec into INT and STR because nothing in the Bladesong feature specifies you need to be in DEX. This allows you to make use of Bladesong and your pumped INT to bring your AC from the tortle’s natural 17 to easily over 20 before you even cast shield. The best weapon to use in this case is a quarterstaff so you can combine it with the Polearm Master and Crusher feats.
To Gish or Not to Gish?
A gish is a fighter that uses physical and magical attacks combat. A Bladesinger’s decision to charge into battle can vary as they gain access to their subclass features based on how optimized it is compared to pure spellcasting. The analyses below relies on a straight comparison between attacking vs using cantrips for ‘non-resource dependant damage.’ Obviously, both martial and pure spell Bladesingers will be able to lay down massive damage with fireball and other evocation AoE spells.
This analyses assumes you’re using the most popular Bladesinger playstyle, the DEX combat style:
- You use a rapier to attack (1d8 + DEX)
- After character creation, you have 16 DEX (+3)
- You devote all of your resources to pumping DEX until you hit 20, then pump INT to 20
At 2nd level, you gain the ability to wear light armor and wield a one-handed weapon. You also get an AC and walking speed boost from your Bladesong feature. One limiting factor in this early game is you can’t offhand attack after casting a cantrip with your action, because two-weapon fighting specifies you need to use your action to attack in order to offhand attack.=
Using the assumptions above, you’ll be outputting more damage per turn by attacking with your weapon and using a bonus action to offhand attack than if you were to rely solely on your best damage cantrip, fire bolt. You could also use green-flame blade (GFB) or booming blade (BB) instead of your weapon attack, but on average the 1d8 from your offhand will do more damage than your static 3 from your INT modifer.
Once you hit 5th level, your cantrips get upgraded. Fire bolt’s damage is increased to 2d10, which still lags behind GFB, even if you don’t hit any additional targets, at 2d8 + 4(DEX). At this point, if you’re able to hit additional targets, GFB is your best option, rather than offhand attacking.
Soon after, at 6th level, your Extra Attack feature can allow you to make two weapon attacks, instead of just one. You can also replace one of your attacks with a cantrip, which is an awesome bonus. Because you’re still using the Attack action, even when you replace an attack with a cantrip, this allows you to use two-weapon fighting to make an attack with your offhand weapon.
At this point, if you were to stay back and shoot fire bolts you’d be outputting 2d10 (avg 11) damage per round whereas your damage from attacking once, using GFB, and offhand attacking would be 4d8 + 6 (avg 24) on top of whatever extra damage you can gain with GFB’s secondary effect.
After you pump DEX with your ASI improvements at 4th and 8th level, you’ll have +5 to DEX, which results in your weapon attacks outputting 1d8 + 5 for your attack, 3d8 + 5 for GFB, and 1d8 from your offhand (avg 32.5). Whereas fire bolt will be doing 3d10 (avg 16.5) once it’s buffed at 11th level.
When you gain Song of Victory at 14th level and are able to add your INT to your attack damage, you can output 1d8 + 5(DEX) + 4(INT) for your attack, 3d8 + 5(DEX) + 4(INT) with GFB, and 1d8 with your offhand (avg 40.5) while Bladesinging. Your damage increases again at 16th level when you bring your INT to 20 and once more at 17th level when GFB increases to 4d8 on hit and to another creatures within 5ft.
Based on this analysis, it’s easy to conclude that diving into melee combat and using your weapon attacks plus GFB is the best way to output single target, non-resource dependant damage as a Bladesinger. Especially with the updates from Tasha’s.
What About Shadow Blade?
At the cost of a 2nd-level spell slot, your concentration slot, and a bonus action, shadow blade allows you to turn your rapier’s 1d8 piercing damage into 2d8 psychic damage. While this may seem very tempting, it’s a bit of a trap. Instead of spending the 2nd-level spell slot to create a sword that you need to use subsequent actions to attack with, you can use scorching ray to output a potential 6d6 with a single action. You also can’t use GFB or BB with shadow blade because their components require a melee weapon worth at least 1 sp.
The big caveat to this would be:
- When your fighting in dim light or darkness, because you can get advantage on your attacks
- When fighting a creature with resistance to non-magical piercing and you don’t have a magical weapon
Assuming your using point buy, standard starting equipment, and the +2/+1 race ASI, you’ll likely start off with a +3 to your DEX and INT. This will give you a 15 AC normally and an 18 AC when using your Bladesong feature. Whether you want to use mage armor to pump your AC by +1 is entirely up to you, though will likely be worth it if you plan on wading into combat.
Apart from pumping DEX and INT, your best way to boost defense will be the shield spell, which can easily get your AC up over 23 when you absolutely need it. These bursts of boosted AC will help offset your dismal d6 hit dice, which will likely cause you to grief when an attack manages to land.
You’ll also have a couple damage soaking options for when you’re hit with AoE attacks or crits. Absorb elements is an amazing option if the damage is an elemental type and your Song of Defense is a expensive yet guaranteed way to reduce damage if you need it.
Best Races for Bladesinger 5e
With the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, it has been confirmed that even non-elf races can become Bladesingers! If you aren’t including Tasha’s at your table, you have few options to choose from. High elves are by far the best option because they provide +2 to DEX, +1 to INT, some nice passive abilities, and a free cantrip.
If you’re playing post Tasha’s and are using the Customize Your Origin option to choose your racial ASIs, see below for the most synergistic options.
Elf: Bladesinging was originally and elven custom so, for no more reason than to stick with tradition, elfs are the most thematic choice.
- High: While wizards already get tons of cantrips, Bladesingers will definitely like that free cantrip at 1st level. This can ensure they have access to all the best options like, green-flame blade, booming blade, fire bolt, shocking grasp, etc.
- Chromatic: Having such a powerful breath weapon just adds to the list of combat options you. On top of this, the damage immunity you gain access to can do wonders for your survivability.
- Gem: The concentrationless flight can be especially good for ranged DEX builds. This way you can avoid enemies and have you concentration slot open for something fun like haste.
Half-Orc: If you're looking to get down and dirty in combat, the half-orc's Relentless Endurance and Brutal Critical are both indispensable tools to improve survivability and damage output.
- Updated: Concentrationless flight at 1st level is fantastic for all wizards and Bladesingers are no different.
- Updated: A healing option, resistance to two common damage types, and the choice of three solid activated abilities with Celestial Relevation. I would likely go for the flight option granted by Radiant Soul, but the damage aura of Radiant Consumption is also a good one for martial Bladesingers looking to maximize damage output.
Eladrin: Free castings of misty step with free rider effects is a great look for Bladesingers looking to zip around the battlefield.
Tortle: As mentioned above, the tortle works extremely by providing a high AC while still abiding by the non-armored requirements of Bladesong.
Best Backgrounds for Bladesingers
There really isn’t a “best” background for the Bladesinger; anything that works well for other Wizard builds will suffice. Choose something that works for your backstory and comes with INT or DEX proficiencies.
- Acolyte: Insight and Religion proficiency. Additional languages can come in handy.
- Cloistered Scholar: History and Arcana, Nature, or Religion proficiency. Additional languages can come in handy.
- Sage: Arcana and History proficiency. Additional languages can come in handy.
Bladesinger Ability Scores
Wizards get Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.
Most Wizards can get away with only focusing on INT, but as a Bladesinger you will want a high DEX bonus as well. INT is still definitely the most important stat to pump because Bladesingers get an ability that allows them to add INT to their AC and their concentration checks made to maintain a concentration spell. At later levels, they are also able to add the INT modifier to melee weapon attacks.
Due to these changes, Bladesingers are Multi Ability Dependent (MAD). Allocating stats properly is imperative to make the build useable, so some stats need to be dumped. Our suggestion is to pump ability scores for the different playstyles in this order:
- DEX Martial: DEX > INT > CON
- Spellcaster: INT > DEX > CON
- DEX Ranged: DEX > INT > CON
- STR Martial: STR > INT > CON
Best Spells for Bladesinger 5e
Because of your high INT score, you won’t face the same issues as Eldritch Knights will when picking spells. Eldritch Knights are a fighter subclass that is sort of the reverse option to Bladesingers when it comes to a melee spellcaster. EKs are also massively MAD and have a hard time pumping their INT score because they focus on their STR and CON. This means EKs have to stick to mainly defensive spells and spells that won’t force a save or use their spell attack modifier.
On the other hand, Bladesingers have a great INT score but will be hard-pressed to pump their CON to a reasonable level to make up for their lacking hit dice. The spells you choose and frequent as a Bladesinger will depend on what playstyle you choose. With that in mind, Bladesingers are still wizards and will have tons of spells to choose from.
Below, we’ll highlight some of the best spell options for Bladesingers. Spells beyond a 4th level are typically the same for all wizards, regardless of their subclass. If you want our thoughts on these more powerful wizard’s spells, check out our wizard guide.
- Booming Blade: Most casters will want to avoid this unless they are up in the mix as a martial spellcaster. This can be a great tool to lock enemies down if you’re being pursued or would like to move around the battlefield to get an advantageous position. Unfortunately, shoving or other methods of knocking prone doesn’t activate the extra 1d8 damage. This spell works particularly well with the Mobile feat as you can attack then move without giving your opponent an attack of opportunity. In practice, it works extremely well with the Polearm Master and Sentinel feat combo, but you will need to pick up a way to extend the range of your cantrip, either by using the Spell Sniper feat or the sorcerer’s Distant Spell Metamagic. Finally, this spell works wonders with War Caster as you can hit an enemy booming blade as an opportunity attack and prevent your opponent from running away.
- Fire Bolt: One of the better damage dealing cantrips. Good range and damage dice, fire is one of the most resisted damage types so be careful when casting at unknown enemies.
- Green-Flame Blade: Good option for martial spellcasters as long as the enemy their attacking has allies nearby. Scales relatively well with levels, but depending on the amount of extra attacks you get this may or may not be worth it. Definitely a good option for builds that have picked up War Caster.
- Shocking Grasp: Advantage against metal armor and preventing reactions for a turn bundles damage and utility.
- Absorb Elements: One of the best defensive spells at this level, especially for protecting against elemental AoE effects.
- Find Familiar: Familiars can do everything except actually attack. They can provide help actions in combat, steal things, scout for your party, and even be used to deliver touch spells on your behalf. Some DMs may not be amused.
- Mage Armor: Because of its long duration and lack of concentration, this spell is a great solution to low AC issues early in a campaign, especially if you have some DEX.
- Shield: This is a great spell to have in your pocket when you’re stuck in a sticky situation. Obviously, the most common use for this spell is to cast this spell when you get hit by an attack, and the +5 boost to your AC will cause the attack to miss. If you have a particularly low AC, you might find this spell sits on the sidelines more often than not at higher levels when enemies get higher attack bonuses.
- Mirror Image: Great way to avoid damage with a low level spell slot. Plus, it doesn’t require concentration. Overall a solid option.
- Misty Step: Misty step is the staple movement spell for those classes lucky enough to have access to it. It can be cast as a bonus action and avoids opportunity attacks.
- Shadow Blade: A pretty good option for Bladesingers that want to wield a sword. This spell becomes very much worth it if you're fighting in dim light or one that has resistance to non-magical damage and you don't have a magic weapon. Keep in mind that this requires your concentration, so if you want to wield it while wading into battle, you might want to take War Caster.
- Counterspell: Always get counterspell. Even if you don’t want to pick it up as soon as it is available to you, come back and get it at a later level. It can literally save lives when facing a powerful spell caster.
- Haste: Lovely buff for non-caster party members, just make sure you don’t immediately have your concentration broken and waste a 3rd level spell and your party member’s next turn.
- Spirit Shroud: Most spellcasters can skip this, but if you’re a martial spellcaster that attacks multiple times a turn, this is definitely worth it.
- Fire Shield: Fire shield is a decent buff for martial casters but casters that prefer to maintain a distance likely won’t find much use for it. The fact that it provides resistances to two different damage types can make it especially potent for builds looking to tank for their party.
- Greater Invisibility: Being able to attack or cast spells while invisible is a huge upgrade from regular invisibility. Give it to a melee party member and watch them get advantage on every attack and disadvantage on attacks against them, bonus points if it’s a paladin or rogue for extra crit + Divine Smite / Sneak Attack potential.
Best Feats for Bladesinger 5e
- Defensive Duelist: Works a bit like the Shield spell and saves you a spell slot. Unfortunately, this feat only works against a single attack while Shield boosts your AC for a whole turn.
- Dual Wielder: Seeing as you can't wield a shield, you might as well grab another rapier in your offhand and get +1 AC.
- Elven Accuracy: Elven Accuracy is a good choice, especially if the +1 to DEX or INT gets you to the next modifier bonus. Combined with shadow blade and a dark environment, this feat will ensure that you nearly always connect with your target.
- Fey Touched: An amazing half-feat that allows you to pump your INT and get a free cast of misty step once per long rest. This feat provides solid value, even for a caster as potent as the wizard. For the 1st-level spell, there are quite a few powerful spells to add to your already spell list. Among the best would be bless, command, and dissonant whispers.
- Fighting Initiate: This is a decent option to boost your playstyle of choice. You can choose Archery for a DEX ranged build or Two-Weapon Fighting for a DEX martial build.
- Mobile: Mobile is really interesting if you want to play primarily in melee range. Combined with Bladesong your walking speed will be insane, and avoiding opportunity attacks is perfect for a character with such low hit points.
- Shadow Touched: If you aren’t looking to be a pure damage beast, this feat is terrific for wizards. Of course, they want free spells, but being able to upcast them is a massive boon for any wizard. Almost all wizards should be picking up this or Fey Touched, especially if they have an odd INT score.
- War Caster: War Caster combined with Bladesong can ensure that you basically never drop your concentration on a spell. Casting spells with opportunity attacks is just great if you want to spend time in melee range.
Multiclass Options for Bladesingers
Probably the best multiclass option. Sure, the armor/shield proficiencies aren’t useable. But, with a two level dip, you’re able to access a proficiency in CON saving throws, Action Surge, Second Wind, and a Fighting Style.
Another popular multiclass option for Bladesingers. It offers several advantages, including increased damage output, increased mobility, and access to a range of useful skills. The rogue class gives bladesingers access to Sneak Attack and Cunning Action abilities, which are incredibly powerful in combat situations. Additionally, rogues have access to Expertise in two skills, allowing them to double their proficiency in certain skill.
Bladesinger 5e Build Example
This build focuses on survivability, melee combat, and the crowd control abilities available to the Wizard. It can hold its own in melee combat at early levels, but will start to slow down in the late game without a multiclass. Purchase your chosen one-handed melee weapon at the earliest convenience. Mage Armor will outclass light armor significantly until you get studded leather, at which point Mage Armor only wins out by 1 AC, at which point it may be worth considering making the swap and saving a spell slot.
Sources Used in This Guide
- BR: Basic Rules
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- SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
- ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
- EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
- EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
- FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
- GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
- MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
- MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
- MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
- PAitM: Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
- PHB: Player's Handbook
- SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
- SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
- SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
- TTP: The Tortle Package
- WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
- VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
- VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
- XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything