The DnD 5e Wizard Guide

Published on March 5, 2020, Last modified on September 6th, 2020

In this post, we will be examining the Wizard’s Class Features and how you can optimize your Wizard through choosing your Race, Ability Score, Spells, Feats, etc. This article will focus primarily on content from the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook.

What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e Wizard. For a quick overview on the Wizard Class, see our breakdown of the DnD 5e Classes. You can see the Wizard Class Features here.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your Wizard. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • 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

So if you’re ready, grab your spellbook and cast Fireball until all of your problems go away.

Did you know?

D&D Beyond can help create your characters by making choices using a step-by-step approach. Full customization and control of your character, none of the flipping through hundreds of pages to reference obscure rules.

Before You Start

Races

Check out our Guide to DnD Races for non-standard races. Keep in mind, most races and subraces are limited by the setting and source material chosen by the DM. Check with your DM before selecting any of the races not listed below.

Wizards rely on a high INT score to be at their maximum effectiveness. If you truly want to maximize your character’s potential there aren’t many options, but anything with an INT bonus is worth considering.

Dragonborn: STR and CHA are useless for the Wizard, and Breath Weapon is overshadowed by spells.

Dwarf: No INT is tough and the Wizard won’t be tanking any time soon. Additional hitpoints are always helpful, especially with the meager d6 hit dice.

  • Hill: A bonus to WIS can occasionally help with Wisdom saves, but additional hitpoints aren’t useful.
  • Mountain: STR on a Wizard? Get outta here. Medium Armor proficiency just isn’t worth it.

Elf: Elves get a DEX bonus which can somewhat help the miserable AC of a Wizard.

  • Drow ElfIgnore CHA for Wizards.
  • High Elf: High Elves get an INT boost and a free cantrip of your choice, as well as an extra language for your roleplaying needs. What’s not to like?
  • Wood Elf: Again, a WIS bonus doesn’t help much and the increased walking speed is easily made irrelevant by spells.

Half-Elf: Not being able to pick up a +2 to INT is going to make the Half-Elf a tough go for Wizards.

Gnome: An Ability Score increase of 2 in INT is going to make a Wizard much more effective, and advantage on saving throws against magic is cool. Forest and Rock Gnomes both feature situational utility so choose whichever you prefer.

Half-Orc: STR and CON bonuses, lets move on.

Halfling: The DEX bonus again marginally helps with AC problems and the Lucky trait is always nice to have, though it won’t be as effective when you are forcing monsters to make saves.

  • Lightfoot: CHA is pointless for this Class and spells solve your needs when it comes to stealth.
  • Stout: Let your beefy party members worry about CON. 

Human: Humans are always decent.

  • Vanilla: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Getting bonus INT plus a proficiency and a feat at first level is typically much better, feats aren’t great for wizards which makes this choice a bit less appealing.

TieflingTieflings get a boost to INT, a free cantrip, and free spells at higher levels.

Ability Scores

Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 6th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th, and 19th level.

Wizards need INT and nothing else is critically important.

STR: Just no.

DEX: Early AC can help survivability, but there are better options.

CON: More hitpoints and better CON saves make the Wizard less squishy.

INT: This is the most important stat for the Wizard, pump this as high as you can.

WIS: Can help with WIS saves and Perception.

CHA: Leave this to other Classes.

Wizard Class Progression

1st Level

Hit Points: Wizards have a measly d6 hit dice. You can somewhat mitigate this by increasing CON since you only need to worry about INT as your main stat.

Saves: People often call INT one of the worst stats because INT saves don’t happen very often.

Proficiencies: No armor proficiencies, and the weapon choice is barely worth mentioning. But you weren’t really hoping to swing a greatsword with your Wizard, were you?

SkillsUnfortunately the Wizard only gets to pick two skills.

  • Arcana (INT): You will probably be the party member who is relied on for Arcana checks, and great flavor too.
  • History (INT): Can be nice if you enjoy lore and roleplaying, but you will make your DM work extra hard!
  • Insight (WIS): Your WIS won’t be high enough to make this worth it.
  • Investigation (INT): Good for puzzle solving.
  • Medicine (WIS): Neat in a pinch, but low WIS can make this tricky.
  • Religion (INT): Same as History but sometimes more useful if your campaign includes gods.

Spellcasting: If you want to cast spells you’ve come to the right place. Wizards are the best at what they do.

Arcane Recovery: One of the biggest challenges a Wizard faces is knowing when to use important spell slots. Arcane Recovery makes the spell slot system a bit less punishing.

2nd Level

At 2nd level Wizards get to choose their Arcane Tradition. There is no “best” choice here. You may pick from one of eight schools of magic:

Abjuration

  • 2nd Level
    • Arcane Ward: Bonus hitpoints of twice your Wizard level + INT modifier is no joke, especially early in a campaign.
  • 6th Level
    • Projected Ward: Helping absorb damage for others improves the usefulness of the ward.
  • 10th Level
    • Improved Abjuration: Better ability checks for counterspell and dispel magic is really useful.
  • 14th Level
    • Spell Resistance: Advantage on saving throws against spells and resistance against magic is just amazing in the late game.

Conjuration

  • 2nd Level
    • Minor Conjuration: You better hope your DM allows shenanigans with this one.
  • 6th Level
    • Benign Transposition: Teleportation rocks.
  • 10th Level
    • Focused Conjuration: No more pesky enemies breaking your conjuration concentration.
  • 14th Level
    • Durable Summons: Not exciting but helps your summons be tankier later in a campaign.

Divination

  • 2nd Level
    • Portent: Portent is just busted. Saving rolls for the ideal moment can change outcomes drastically. Use it and abuse it.
  • 6th Level
    • Expert Divination: Casting more spells per day is always welcome.
  • 10th Level
    • The Third Eye: Useful, but situational.
  • 14th Level
    • Greater Portent: Improves portent’s power.

Enchantment

  • 2nd Level
    • Hypnotic Gaze: Can get you out of sticky situations, but there are better ways.
  • 6th Level
    • Instinctive Charm: Redirect enemy attacks, but they need to be near another enemy and do a saving throw.
  • 10th Level
    • Split Enchantment: Enchant two creatures for the price of one. Nice.
  • 14th Level
    • Alter Memories: This is only good if you like casting charm spells.

Evocation

  • 2nd Level
    • Sculpt Spells: If you like casting big spells like Fireball this makes sure your allies won’t get singed.
  • 6th Level
    • Potent Cantrip: Damaging cantrips that require saving throws to avoid damage are bad, and this barely makes them better.
  • 10th Level
    • Empowered Evocation: Adding your INT modifier to damage rolls of evocation spells make them that much more devastating.
  • 14th Level
    • Overchannel: If you’re out of higher level spell slots your low level damage spells won’t be wasted. Watch your hitpoints though.

Illusion

  • 2nd Level
    • Improved Minor Illusion: If you’re creative you’ll get more utility out of your minor illusions by combining sound and image.
  • 6th Level
    • Malleable Illusions: Again, you’re gonna have to be creative to get the most out of this ability.
  • 10th Level
    • Illusory Self: “Get out of jail free card” once per short rest if you’re facing down an attack.
  • 14th Level
    • Illusory Reality: Turn your dreams into reality. The sky’s the limit here.

Necromancy

  • 2nd Level
    • Grim Harvest: Yeah you can regain some hitpoints, but it doesn’t work with cantrips and you have to deal the killing blow on an enemy.
  • 6th Level
    • Undead Thralls: You get Animate Dead for free and your undead will be stronger. Perfect for a necromancer.
  • 10th Level
    • Inured to Undeath: This ability could either save you multiple times in a campaign, or not come up even once.
  • 14th level
    • Command Undead: Very useful if your enemies are undead, but you will have a harder time if they are intelligent.

Transmutation

  • 2nd Level
    • Minor Alchemy: Changing a substance into another substance for 10 minutes is not a riveting prospect.
  • 6th Level
    • Transmuter’s Stone: The ability to give yourself or a party member a variety of different buffs is the best ability in a Transmutation Wizard’s arsenal.
  • 10th Level
    • Shapechanger: You get polymorph for free and can use it without expending a spell slot. Neat.
  • 14th Level
    • Master Transmuter: Get instant value from your Transmuter’s Stone, but it can’t be reformed until after a long rest. This is risky and is pretty situational.

18th Level

Spell Mastery: Spell Mastery makes the Wizard really shine. Unlimited casts of useful utility spells can help you through any situation.

20th Level

Signature Spells: This is like an enhanced Spell Mastery, allowing you to prepare two extra spells each day.

Feats

Many feats aren’t suited to the Wizard Class, but we will go over the ones that you may consider.

  • Alert: Being up higher in the initiative order can be very valuable for a Wizard.
  • Elemental Adept: The bonus damage is negligible but if most of your damage comes from one element then go for it.
  • Keen Mind: A small bonus to INT isn’t enough to make up for the other useless parts of this feat.
  • Lucky: Lucky is a feat that is useful to any character.
  • Observant: A +1 to INT and +5 bonuses to passive Perception and Investigation make this a good feat for Wizards.
  • Resilient: A Wizard might consider using Resilient to gain proficiency in CON saving throws.
  • Spell Sniper: Increased range and ignoring cover on spell attacks is fantastic.
  • War Caster: Advantage on CON saves and casting spells as opportunity attacks are both beneficial components of this feat.

Spells

Wizards have access to a lot of spells. Therefore, we think it would be the most beneficial to only talk about our favorite spells at each level, and which ones to avoid. Just remember that this doesn’t mean the ones we don’t mention are necessarily bad or don’t have a purpose. For your particular campaign, your mileage may vary.

For a full list of Wizard spells click here.

Cantrips

  • Fire Bolt: Pick this if you need a damage dealing cantrip.
  • Mage Hand: Good utility.
  • Message: Often pointless due to unavoidable metagaming, but for roleplaying purposes it’s great.
  • Minor Illusion: This cantrip can be the most flexible tool available to a Wizard if used creatively.
  • Poison Spray: A saving throw avoids all damage caused by this cantrip. Avoid.
  • Prestidigitation: Good utility.
  • Shocking Grasp: Advantage against metal armor and preventing reactions for a turn bundles damage and utility.
  • True Strike: Wasting a whole turn just to gain advantage on a single creature the next turn is not what you want to be doing.

1st Level Spells

  • Burning Hands: Poor range, damage, and a saving throw to negate half the damage. Avoid.
  • 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.
  • Illusory Script: Not sure what they were thinking with this one. It does basically nothing.
  • Jump: A very poor mobility spell. Hold off until you get Fly, Spider Climb, or Misty Step.
  • Mage Armor: Can solve some of the Wizard’s low AC issues early in a campaign, especially if you have some DEX.
  • Magic Missile: Your standard first level damage dealer. This spell always hits which is nice.
  • Protection From Evil and Good: Amazing protective spell against many creatures types you face in D&D 5e.
  • Shield: Slightly stronger than Mage Armor, but only lasts for one round of combat. Very nice that it can get used as a reaction but if your AC is low enough it might not matter.
  • Sleep: Sleep is a spell that sometimes feels overpowered at the beginning of a campaign. With a good roll you can basically end an encounter in one turn.

2nd Level Spells

  • Acid Arrow: Just use Magic Missile instead.
  • Continual Flame: This is basically a cantrip, but costs you a spell slot.
  • Flaming Sphere: Not the best damage, but AoE and the ability to move the sphere as a bonus action are useful if up against a horde of weak enemies.
  • Levitate: Can be used to get up high, or completely remove a melee attacker from combat. Levitate can be good at any level.
  • Suggestion: Never underestimate the power of suggesting a course of action to an NPC. Yes, Mr. Scary Guard, why don’t you give us the keys to your king’s treasure vault?
  • Misty Step: Who doesn’t want to teleport? And you can do so as a bonus action while avoiding opportunity attacks. This spell can save your butt since you won’t have many hit points as a Wizard.
  • Scorching Ray: Decent damage dealer at this level, and you can choose up to three targets.

3rd Level Spells

  • Animate Dead: More options for your bonus action and another body between you and the baddies.
  • Bestow Curse: Concentration, saving throw that can completely nullify the spell, and touch range…ouch.
  • CounterspellAlways 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. 
  • FireballFireball is the first spell that comes to mind when thinking about a 5e Wizard. Huge AoE and amazing damage for 3rd level, although it’s effectiveness does wear off later on.
  • Fly: More useful than Levitate in many situations, but concentration could make this end badly.
  • Hypnotic Pattern: Great crowd control.
  • 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.
  • Tiny Hut: This spell is both better than it looks at first glance and worse than it looks on a second glance. Being able to long rest uninterrupted or use it as cover anywhere you want is really useful. However, if you abuse it your DM will make you pay, like setting up an ambush just outside the dome. Even still, this spell is a fan favorite.
  • Vampiric Touch: If you’re close enough to an enemy to want to do this small amount of damage, you’re in big trouble.

4th Level Spells

  • Arcane Eye: How could we write a Wizard guide and not mention our namesake? Luckily, it’s a great scouting tool and can be moved as an action, making it worthy of this list.
  • Banishment: Get rid of creatures from another plane, or take out a big threat for most of combat. They have to perform a saving throw, but CHA is often not a high stat for those enemies.
  • Dimension DoorTeleport, with a friend, over a much longer distance than Misty Step. Unfortunately, it’s a full action to cast.
  • Faithful Hound: Just get Alarm if you want an ability like this, the damage doesn’t justify the 4th level spell slot. So yeah, that’s gonna be a no from me dawg.
  • 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.
  • Hallucinatory Terrain: Nice if you want to roleplay Minecraft, I guess?
  • Ice Storm: You already have Fireball, and Ice Storm is weaker. The terrain control doesn’t make the weaker damage worth it.
  • Polymorph: Buff an ally or turn an enemy into a rat while you obliterate his friends!
  • Secret Chest: Hide stuff in the ethereal plane. Very, VERY situational.

5th Level Spells

  • Animate Objects: Turn your trash into treasure. Send an army of pebbles at your opponents for 1d4 + 4 damage with +8 attacks.
  • Cloudkill: Cool name, but poor damage and concentration requirement make this spell pretty bad.
  • Creation: Allows you to make a rope, or a rock. Yeah.
  • Seeming: Disguise your whole party. Not bad when trying to get somewhere you aren’t meant to be.
  • Telekinesis: Pretty versatile, allowing you to move a creature or object. Knock those pesky enemies of yours off a cliff.
  • Telepathic Bond: Allows your party to communicate when they normally wouldn’t be able to.
  • Wall of Force: You’re just making a wall. So what? You can split up opposing forces, hide behind an impenetrable wall, or make a dome over your party. It is immune to dispel magic but can be disintegrated.

6th Level Spells

  • Circle of Death: Fireball type effect, but at 6th level, necrotic damage, and a CON save to boot. Boo!
  • Contingency: This is an interesting one. Instead of casting a spell, you can save that spell to be automatically cast when certain criteria have been met, lasting up to ten days.
  • Disintegrate: Live out your power fantasy as Thanos. The damage can be great, but a successful save negates ALL damage. Still, people love this spell so it needed to be addressed.
  • Mass Suggestion: Better than regular Suggestion in many ways. No saving throws, target up to twelve creatures, and a duration of 24 hours.
  • Globe of Invulnerability: Block all spells 5th level and lower in a 10-foot radius around your Wizard. This spell can get really helpful as you start to face more enemies casting spells.
  • Move Earth: Still trying to live out that Minecraft fantasy? Go for it.
  • Sunbeam: Not a bad spell for those grindy fights. Blinding opponents, repositioning the beam on each turn, disadvantage for undead make this a solid choice.
  • True Seeing: Gain the abilities of truesight, spotting secret doors, and seeing into the ethereal plane, all without concentration.

7th Level Spells

  • Etherealness: This spell allows you to fly or move through solid objects, while not being affected or able to affect creatures not on the Ethereal Plane. You can only target yourself but there is no concentration. Pretty middle of the road all around.
  • Finger of Death: It’s a CON save, but they still take half damage on a success. If you want some single target damage, it’s not a bad pick.
  • Forcecage: Capture a creature with no saving throw for up to one hour. They can attempt to escape with magic, but a CHA saving throw can make it tricky. You can also use this to move a creature by placing the creature only partially within the area.
  • Prismatic Spray: Only 10d6 damage on a failed save, and the damage type is random. This spell just isn’t reliable enough to be worth it.
  • Project Image: Can be used to distract enemies or as a pretty bad scouting tool. You or your party members should have better ways to do this by now.
  • Sequester: There just aren’t many practical uses for this spell outside of a plot device.
  • Simulacrum: This spell is great. Make a copy of yourself to get extra counterspells, or make a copy of a captured monster.
  • Teleport: Instantly transport yourself and up to eight willing creatures. Of course there is a chance of a mishap, but a full party teleport is nothing to scoff at.

8th Level Spells

  • Antimagic Field: You want to be able to cast spells as a Wizard, and this spell prevents that. Maybe there is some powerful magic around you that you want to stop, but you’re better off tackling that problem with a spell of your own and taking another 8th level spell instead.
  • Antipathy/Sympathy: Attract or repel creatures that you choose. Force melee creatures away from you or ranged creatures towards your melee allies. It also lasts for ten days, which is very long.
  • Clone: Voldemort, basically. If you die, your soul is transferred to the clone, as long as the vessel it is in is undisturbed. You don’t get your equipment back unless you are able to retrieve it, however.
  • Control Weather: This is one of those spells that could have massive repercussions outside of combat. Its effect is extremely powerful though its uses may not be.
  • Maze: Banish a creature with no saving throw for up to ten minutes. Maze is really strong because to return, it must pass a DC 20 INT check as an action. The only caveat is that it is a concentration spell.
  • Mind Blank: A full 24 hours of immunity to psychic damage, reading thoughts, divination spells, and being charmed. Mind Blank is surprisingly effective during high level encounters as a defensive spell.
  • Power Word Stun: You can auto stun a creature that has less than 150hp, but they get to make a save at the end of each of their turns.

9th Level Spells

  • Foresight: The buff that does everything you could ask for. Lasts for 8 hours (no concentration!), the target can’t be surprised, has advantage on rolls, and other creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls against the target.
  • Meteor Swarm: Nuke your enemies with this one simple trick! 20d6 fire damage and 20d6 bludgeoning damage, or half on a successful DEX save.
  • Prismatic Wall: Another great wall, this time with no concentration. It is virtually indestructible, and your allies can pass through unharmed.
  • Power Word Kill: Very mechanically interesting spell. Essentially, you can auto kill a creature if they have less than 100hp. Now, as a player we do not know how much HP a monster has, but an Investigation or Insight check might allow some clues as to whether or not they’re close. Still Meteor Swarm can do, on average, 140 damage (70 on a save), and can hit multiple creatures so this might not be that worth it.
  • Time Stop: You can’t target other creatures during your 1d4 + 1 extra turns, but it’s a great opportunity to move into position and buff yourself.
  • True Polymorph: If you manage to concentrate successfully for an hour, the effect can be permanent. The added flexibility of turning a creature into an object, or vice-versa, is really powerful.
  • Weird: Compared to the other 9th level spells, Weird just stinks. Basically Fear with some damage.
  • Wish: Wish is the best spell in Dnd 5e, hands down. It’s regular use allows you to duplicate any other spell at 8th level or lower. However, it can also be used to regain all hitpoints for your whole party, change the outcome of a roll, or gain immunity to a spell. Some DMs may allow you to wish for basically anything, but at the risk of something going terribly wrong. This can make for some really cool deus ex machina moments.

 

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