The DnD 5e Sorcerer Guide

Published on June 4, 2020, Last modified on July 15th, 2020

In this post, we will be examining the Sorcerer’s Class Features and how you can optimize your Sorcerer 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, but will also delve into some of the content in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e Sorcerer. For a quick overview on the Sorcerer Class, see our breakdown of the DnD 5e Classes. You can see the Sorcerer 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 Sorcerer. 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, thank your father for marrying a dragon and giving you crazy, magical powers.

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.

Sorcerers rely on a high CHA score to be at their maximum effectiveness. 

Dragonborn: The STR boost will be wasted but the CHA is what you are looking for. Shame the CHA bonus is only +1 or else this class would be an amazing choice. A damage resistance and Breath Weapon is a good bonus.

Dwarf: No CHA is tough and the Sorcerer won’t be tanking any time soon. Additional hitpoints are always helpful.

  • Hill: A bonus to WIS can occasionally help with Wisdom saves, but additional hitpoints aren’t useful.
  • Mountain: STR on a Sorcerer? 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 Sorcerer.

  • Drow ElfNice CHA bonus but sunlight sensitivity is not a fun time.
  • High Elf: High Elves get an INT boost and a free cantrip of your choice. Sorcerers get plenty of cantrips and the INT bonus isn’t useful.
  • Wood Elf: Again, a WIS bonus doesn’t help much and the increased walking speed is easily made irrelevant by spells.

Half-Elf: The +2 CHA, ASI, and skill versatility make this is one of the better races for the Sorcerer class. 

Gnome: An Ability Score increase of 2 in INT isn’t going to help.

  • Forest: Nothing for a sorcerer
  • Rock: Nothing for a sorcerer

Half-Orc: STR and CON bonuses, let’s 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 nice and Naturally Stealthy helps, but there are better options.
  • 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 CHA plus a proficiency and a feat at first level is typically really good. Feats aren’t great for Sorcerers which makes this choice a bit less appealing.

TieflingTieflings get a boost to CHA, fire resistance,  a free cantrip, and free spells at higher levels. They are a great class for Sorcerers.

Ability Scores

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

Sorcerers need CHA. They have a miserable hit dice so CON is a good secondary pick.

STR: No use beefing out your Sorcerer.

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

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

INT: Who needs INT when you’re naturally gifted?

WIS: Can help with WIS saves and Perception.

CHA: Your spellcasting modifier and great for face skills.

Sorcerer Class Progression

1st Level

Hit Points: Sorcerers have a measly d6 hitpoints. You can somewhat mitigate this by increasing CON since you only need to worry about CHA as your main stat.

Saves: CON saving throws are awesome for casters because they are used for Concentration checks. CHA saves are much less common but can keep you from being banished at later levels.

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

SkillsUnfortunately the Sorcerer 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.
  • Deception (CHA): Very solid social skill that meshes with your stacked CHA.
  • Insight (INT): Insight is a solid skill but it doesn’t do well with your dropped INT.
  • Intimidation (CHA): Usually the least useful social skill. Can be mitigated by your proficiency in either Deception or Persuasion.
  • Persuasion (CHA): Another great social skill. Depending on your build, you will likely either choose this or Deception.
  • Religion (INT): Not as crucial as Arcana for an INT based skill.

Spellcasting: If you want to cast spells you’ve come to the right place. Sorcerers are a full caster. Unfortunately, they don’t get to learn as many spells as most of the other caster classes.

Sorcerer Origin

Divine Soul
  • 1st Level
    • Divine Magic: Getting access to an entirely new set of spells will provide a ton of utility, even more so because of how good the Cleric spell list is. The only downside is the lack of known spells for Sorcerers will make it hard to pick and choose.
      • Good: Cure Wounds – Access to healing is great for a class that usually has none
      • Evil: Inflict Wounds – Great single target damage spell that scales really well and can crit. Unfortunately, it is touch range and does necrotic damage which can become less useful at higher levels.
      • Law: Bless – Easily one of the best buffs in the game.
      • Chaos: Bane – Great debuff
      • Neutrality: Protection from Evil and Good – Great single target buff.
    • Favored by the Gods: Adding 2d4 to a missed attack or failed saving throw once per short rest is incredibly useful in defensive and offensive situations.
  • 6th Level
    • Empowered Healing: Solid ability that is limited by the 5ft range. 
  • 14th Level
    • Otherworldly Wings: Flight is one of the biggest advantages you can gain in a fight.
  • 18th Level
    • Unearthly Recovery: This is a lot of healing for a bonus action and no spell slot.
Draconic Bloodline
  • 1st Level
    • Dragon Ancestor: This great guide goes into detail on the number of spells and monsters that have resistances to certain type of damage. Note: this may not be completely up to date but provides a rough idea.
      • Acid: 17 Spells, 29 Resistant, 21 Immune – Middle of the pack spell, resistant and immunity count. You can also take Elemental Adept.
      • Cold: 24 Spells, 85 Resistant, 33 Immune – Definitely not a great pick if you look at the numbers.
      • Fire: 34 Spells, 74 Resistant, 32 Immune, 14 Vulnerable – The most spells but also the most resistances. Taking Elemental Adept is necessary for this build but makes it very powerful at the same time. 
      • Lightning: 19 Spells, 70 Resistant, 32 Immune – Much less spell choice than fire or cold and a similar amount of Resistances and Immunities.
      • Poison: 10 Spells, 17 Resistant, 173 Immune – Yikes. The least amount of spells and SO many immunities.
    • Draconic ResilienceThe HP is negligible but the unarmored AC is greatly needed.
  • 6th Level
    • Elemental Affinity: This can be huge damage when combined with AoE spells because you get to add your CHA multiple times. Gaining resistance for an hour for one sorcery point is also great economy.
  • 14th Level
    • Dragon Wings: Bonus action, non concentration flight is straight up gold. 
  • 18th Level
    • Draconic Presence: Sorcery points are a very needed resource but at this level you have 18 to throw around. This is essentially a 5th level spell slot for a 120ft radius Fear spell, which is very powerful crowd control and much more range than the 3rd level version.
Shadow Magic
  • 1st Level
    • Eyes of the Dark: 120ft Darkvision is good in itself. Being able to pay 2 sorcery points to be able to see in it will allow you to get advantage (and give everything else disadvantage). This is an extremely strong combo to have at 1st level and works well at higher levels.
    • Strength of the Grave: This will certainly be effective at early levels. At high levels, you could easily be hit for 30 damage, making this ability useless.
  • 6th Level
    • Hound of Ill Omen: Only being able to target one creature with this is somewhat limiting so it won’t be useful in fights with lots of smaller creatures. This can come in handy against a stronger opponent.
  • 14th Level
    • Shadow Walk: Unlimited teleportation as a bonus action is amazing. Not quite as good as flight because you have to be in darkness or dim light. Knowing the Darkness spell can certainly help with your escapes.
  • 18th Level
    • Umbral Form: At 18th level, force and radiant damage are common but this is still an absolutely amazing ability.
Storm Sorcerery
  • 1st Level
    • Wind Speaker: Four free languages has a chance of being useful at some point in your campaign.
    • Tempestuous Magic: A nice “get out of jail free card” if you ever find yourself in melee combat.
  • 6th Level
    • Heart of the Storm: Extra damage within 10ft, combined with Tempestuous Magic, is actually a fairly good combo. The resistances are nice.
    • Storm Guide: This can make you look cool but that’s about it.
  •   14th Level
    • Storm’s Fury: Another useful ability if you find yourself in melee combat, which Sorcerers really don’t want to do.
  • 18th Level
    • Wind Soul: Immunity to a common type of and free flying speed, forever. You can also share this ability with friends. This is definitely the best capstone ability out of any of the Sorcerer Origins.
Wild Magic
  • 1st Level
    • Wild Magic Surge: This is a random effect that generates random results and is impossible to rate.
    • Tides of Chaos: Essentially a free, once-a-day Lucky.
  • 6th Level
    • Bend Luck: On reaction Bardic Inspiration/Cutting Words is great. Limiting to a d4 certainly hurts the abilities effectiveness but it will come in clutch very often. 
  • 14th Level
    • Controlled Chaos: Again, very random, but a bit more in your favor.
  • 18th Level
    • Spell Bombardment: This is at most 5.5 extra damage. This is quite a weak capstone ability.

2nd Level

Fonts of Magic: With Sorcerers, flexibility is the name of the game. You might not get access to as many utility spells, but your damage spells are going to be more applicable and more effective than other casting classes. Fonts of Magic provides flexibility to create more spell slots, or use sorcery points to manipulate your spells with Meta Magic. Keep in mind, you have to finish a long rest to get your sorcery points back.

3rd Level

Meta Magic: As mentioned before, Sorcerers are mainly focused on damage dealing and it shows in the Metamagic abilities. Most of the abilities allow you to hit enemies harder, faster, and more effectively than other casting classes. You gain access to 2 of these at 3rd Level

  • Careful Spell: For 1 sorcery point you can weave your big AoE blasts around your party members. This is something that takes an entire subclass dip for Wizards.
  • Distant Spell: Doubling the range of ranged spells and getting 30ft of range on touch spell can be useful in a pinch.
  • Empowered Spell: This can be nice in situations where you roll a 1 on something like Inflict Wounds. Rerolling a d10 can net way more damage.
  • Extended Spell: There just aren’t a lot of good uses for this since most buffs last long enough for combat and don’t have much use lasting longer.
  • Heightened Spell: Invoking disadvantage on saving throws is a great mechanism when you really want a spell to hit.
  • Quickened Spell: Casting your favorite spells as a bonus action is awesome for action economy. Keep in mind that you can only cast a cantrip for your main action spell if you cast a spell as a bonus action.
  • Subtle Spell: Good for political campaigns where you can’t be seen casting spells but not much outside of that.
  • Twinned Spell: Being able to twin a spell like Haste is a completely amazing ability. A useful option for buffing damage of cantrips on the cheap as well.

You gain another Metamagic option at 10th and 17th level.

20th Level

Sorcerous Restoration: It’s not a particularly impressive capstone ability but it is effective to keep you useful for longer.

Feats

Many feats aren’t suited to the Sorcerer 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 Sorcerer.
  • Elemental Adept: The bonus damage is negligible but if most of your damage comes from one element then go for it. This is a must-have for Draconic Bloodline (Fire) Sorcerers.
  • Lucky: Lucky is a feat that is useful to any character, but is less good for spellcasters.
  • Resilient: A Sorcerer doesn’t need a proficiency in CON because they already have one.
  • Spell Sniper: Increased range can be covered with Meta Magic, and ignoring cover on spell attacks isn’t enough to pick this feat.
  • War Caster: Advantage on CON saves won’t be as necessary with the Sorcerer’s proficiency in CON saves. Casting spells as opportunity attacks is a beneficial component of this feat but likely won’t get used much because Sorcerers prefer not to be in melee range.

Spells

Sorcerers 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 Sorcerer spells click here.

Cantrips

  • Acid Splash: Can target multiple creatures.
  • Chill Touch: Great for trolls and vampires that regenerate health.
  • 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 Sorcerer 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.
  • Chromatic Orb: Your go-to damage spell. It has a high cost, though.
  • Detect Magic: Good to have in those situations where you need to find out if something funky is going on.
  • 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 Sorcerer’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.
  • Ray of Sickness: Ranged spell so it can crit. Targets a common save but being poisoned is a strong condition.
  • 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

  • Blur: Not super useful unless you have a decent AC.
  • Cloud of Daggers: If you can get this into a chokepoint you can do amazing damage.
  • Crown of Madness: This spell has a lot of crippling limitations because of its powerful effect at such a small level. Skip this until you can Dominate Monsters.
  • Enhance Ability: This spell does it all. Use it when Guidance won’t quite do the trick.
  • Hold Person: This can be encounter breaking against humanoids. Scales well with levels.
  • Levitate: Can be used to get up high, or completely remove a melee attacker from combat. Levitate can be good at any level.
  • Invisibility: Your go-to infiltration spell.
  • Scorching Ray: Decent damage dealer at this level, and you can choose up to three targets.
  • 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 Sorcerer.

3rd Level Spells

  • Clairvoyance: Not many situations will call for this spell but it can be useful for scouting.
  • 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. 
  • Fireball: 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.
  • Lightning Bolt: Fireball’s rejected younger brother. Poor Lightning Bolt.
  • 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.
  • Slow: Awesome debuff.
  • Stinking Cloud: Used in the right circumstances this can be effective, but it is a tough spell to nail.
  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Stoneskin: Effectively double your favorite melee fighter’s HP.

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.
  • Cone of Cold: It’s Fireball damage for a 5th Level spell slot, although it is easier to control and to reduce friendly fire than Fireball.
  • Creation: Allows you to make a rope or a rock. Yeah.
  • Insect Plague: A better version of Cloudkill in most circumstances due to the difficult terrain and light obscurity.
  • 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 Stone: Great tool to manipulate the battlefield to your party’s advantage.

6th Level Spells

  • Arcane Gate: Like a badass Dimension Door.
  • Chain Lightning: Great damage and solid control over targets.
  • 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 Sorcerer. 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. This will be effective at some point but a 6th level spell is steep.

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.
  • Fire Storm: Depending on the size and position of the crowd you are fighting, this can either be insanely big damage or an easy to aim Fireball. Most of the time it will be the latter.
  • Plane Shift: Good utility to run away from a fight that has turned south, or force a CHA save to avoid getting banished.
  • 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.
  • Reverse Gravity: A shenanigan spell if there ever was one. It is hard to position to create max damage but the effects are powerful (and fun) nonetheless.
  • 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

  • Dominate Monster: Extremely good option to help swing the tides of battle in your favor.
  • Earthquake: There is way too much left up to the DM’s discretion for this spell to be effective in combat. The only use I can see for this spell would be destroying a city.
  • Incendiary Cloud: One of the best options for a choke point. This is insane damage if you can get a crowd to run through it.
  • 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.
  • Sunburst: Big damage and nice effect. Great AoE that is somewhat limited by forcing a CON save.

9th Level Spells

  • Meteor Swarm: Nuke your enemies with this one simple trick! 20d6 fire damage and 20d6 bludgeoning damage, or half on a successful DEX save.
  • 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.
  • Wish: Wish is the best spell in Dnd 5e, hands down. Its 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.

Hope you liked the guide! If you have any questions or feel like we missed something for the 5e Sorcerer, go ahead and post a comment below. If you like our content subscribe to Arcane Eye!

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