Guides

Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition): How to Build a Wizard – A Combat Guide

Get ready to bring the heat.
Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) has crept back into the limelight. Once a distant echo only heard in the basements of the most passionate of tabletop fans, D&D has now burrowed its way into popular culture. A massive franchise of books, movies and tabletop adventures, D&D has taken on a life of its own. With new players flocking to pick up their dice and play the world’s greatest role-playing game every day, we have created a detailed guide on how to build one of D&D’s most iconic classes.

Overview

Image credit to DnD Beyond

Dungeons and Dragons is an incredibly expansive game. The same campaign can be experienced in entirely different ways by different players.

Some players get excited for the role-playing. Some players get excited for the fighting. Whatever you are into, D&D has something for you. It has something for everyone.

With that in mind, there is no wrong way to build a player character in D&D. After all, part of the fun of Dungeons and Dragons is expressing your creativity by creating unique and interesting characters. That being said, D&D does have an in-depth combat system that will swallow you whole if you let it.

To that end, we have developed a detailed build for the iconic D&D wizard class for all of the combat oriented players out there. Again, there is no wrong way to build a character. There are even multiple ways to optimize a character for combat. It all depends on your tastes.

If you love showing off your skills in combat and are looking for a new way to play one of D&D’s coolest classes, then this wizard build is going to be perfect for you.

If you would like to learn how to play one of D&D’s other classes, check out our guides down below.

Warlock

Barbarian

Paladin

Fighter

Bard

Monk

If you want to learn the basics of building a D&D character before taking a deep dive into this class, check out How to Start Playing Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition) Without Breaking the Bank – A Beginner’s Guide. Without further delay, let’s dig into this wizard build.

Wizard

Image credit to DnD Beyond

The wizard is an incredible class. Unique, satisfying and uncompromising, the wizard is a well-equipped and well rounded class that is often suited for more advanced players. This is a full on spellcasting class. Consequently, learning how to best utilize this class will require an in-depth study of the wizard’s spell list.

You will not be pummeling goblins into the dirt with your war hammer or stunning orcs with your Kung-Fu blows as a wizard. In fact, the wizard is incredibly frail when placed into a melee fracas. But, you will be able to manipulate your enemies, allies and even the battlefield itself through your incredible list of arcane spells.

To that end, this wizard build is not focused on turning your character into a hulking tank, devastating damage dealer or a life-sustaining healer. If you want a tank, you should check out the barbarian build provided above. If you want a damage dealer, consider the fighter build. As far as healers are concerned, you can never go wrong with a good ol’ fashioned cleric.

This wizard build, on the other hand, is focused on versatility. With this build, you will have an answer to most situations in combat. If your team needs some buffs, you need to dish out some crowd control or you just want to lay down some gruesome AoE damage, this build will give you plenty of options.

So, let’s get started. First thing’s first, you will need to choose a race, arcane tradition and a number of other things.

Character OptionBest ChoiceDescription
Race:High ElfThis race will grant you an additional wizard cantrip as well as a +1 intelligence bonus and some new weapon proficiencies. That being said, all of the Gnome sub-races are also great picks for the wizard class. You will be one size category smaller, but will also earn a bevy of useful traits and abilities.
Arcane Tradition:AbjurationThis arcane school is all about going on the defensive. Features like Projected Ward will help you keep your party alive, while features like Arcane Ward help give yourself a little more sustain. If protecting your team from taking damage doesn’t sound appealing, consider the Bladesinger school. This is a great school for melee oriented wizards.
Ability Score Improvement #1:+2 IntelligenceThere are not a surplus of incredible feats for the wizard. That being said, feats are not going to make or break this build. What you really need is to maximize your intelligence. As the ability tied to all of your spellcasting and your best skills, a high intelligence score is paramount for a good wizard.
Ability Score Improvement #2:+2 IntelligenceThere are not a surplus of incredible feats for the wizard. That being said, feats are not going to make or break this build. What you really need is to maximize your intelligence. As the ability tied to all of your spellcasting and your best skills, a high intelligence score is paramount for a good wizard.
Feat #1:LuckyYou can really never go wrong by getting the Lucky feat. This will give you advantage up to three times a day on any number of things. Ultimately, this feat will allow you to effectively change your fate.
Feat #2:AlertThe big bonus you will receive from the Alert feat is the massive +5 to initiative. As the character that will orchestrate every battle, a wizard being able to take the first turn in combat can be incredibly effective. If this doesn’t feel like a large enough advantage to you, consider taking the Tough feat. This feat will boost your sustain by granting you up to a bonus 40 hit points at level 20.
Feat #3:ResilientThe wizard has pretty bad saves. Wisdom saving throws are important, but intelligence saving throws somewhat take a backseat in 5th edition. When choosing this feat, consider giving yourself advantage on constitution saving throws. With this build your constitution score will be serviceable, so you can really take advantage of this feat.
Image credit to DnD Beyond

When it comes to choosing your race, arcane school, ASIs and feats for the wizard, you definitely have some options. The most important thing to take note of is that boosting your intelligence score is paramount. Your intelligence will determine your spellcasting bonus, spell DC and many of your best ability (skill) check bonuses.

Consequently, the High Elf race is a splendid choice for its +1 intelligence bonus alone. That being said, the Gnome races offer +2 intelligence bonuses. Rather you decide to go with the High Elf or one of the Gnome sub-races, you will already be off to a great start with your wizard build.

The next thing you will want to choose is an arcane school. It really depends on your play style concerning which school will be best for your. The Bladesinging school provides lots of melee fun, while the Divine School offers some healing spells. One of the arguably strongest and most common schools is the abjuration school, as it gives the wizard some much needed sustain and allows the wizard the ability to protect their allies.

You should always choose ability score improvements over feats for your level four and eight bonuses. Unless you are playing a Bladesinging wizard, there are not many feats that are going to be beneficial to you.

Rather, ensure your intelligence score will reach 20 by obtaining two ASI improvements right off the bat. After that, the Lucky and Resilience spells will add some much needed sustain to your character. Lastly, the Alert feat will ensure you can consistently get the jump on your opponents. This will prove useful whenever you want to quickly disrupt your enemy’s positioning or when you want to provide your team with a last-second buff before combat.

Character OptionBest ChoiceDescription
Weapon:LongbowAs a High Elf, you will be proficient with Longbows. In all honesty, you will want to focus each of your turns on pouring magic on whatever your problem is. That being said, it is nice to have a ranged weapon handy just in case the opportunity arises.
Armor:NoneAs a wizard, you have zero armor proficiencies. This is why boosting your defenses by choosing the abjuration school is such a safe bet.
Skill Proficiencies:Arcana and InvestigationAs a wizard, the skills you will be best with are those that rely on your high intelligence bonus. Consequently, skills like Arcana and Investigation will be incredibly useful for your character.

Wizards are not well equipped when it comes to, well, equipment. Wizards are not proficient in any forms of armor. To make matters worse, wizards are not proficient with simple or martial weapons. They are only proficient with specifically Daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows. Luckily, the High Elf race grants an additional proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.

Unless you are playing a Bladesinger, then you are not going to want to engage in melee ever. Consequently, the longbow will be your best bet concerning weapons. Of course, you should be focusing your efforts on utilizing your bevy of spells. The longbow is simply a safety measure in case it becomes your only choice outside of spellcasting.

Lastly, you have your skills. Your high intelligence score will favor skills such as Arcana, History and Investigation. History can be quite useful, but I find that Arcana and definitely Investigation checks are far more prevalent.

AbilityAbility Point AllocationDescription
Strength:8This is your dump stat. You will not be engaging in melee nor you will be acting as a proverbial pack mule for your group. However if you decide to play a Bladesinger, then you will want to shift some of your focus to this ability.
Dexterity:16 (14+2)This is your second most useful ability. In all honesty, dexterity is almost always a strong ability. It dictates a few rather useful skills. However, it also dictates your initiative, armor class, an important saving throw and your combat effectiveness with ranged weapons. Note that this ability score has been boosted by a +2 racial bonus.
Constitution:14 (13+1)This ability should never be simply swept under the rug. Never make constitution a dump stat. This ability dictates an important saving throw and determines your maximum health. That being said, constitution is not the most important ability for this build because a good wizard tries to avoid being damaged in the first place. Once again, this is why choosing the abjuration school is such a great idea. Note that this ability received a +1 bonus from the Resilient feat.
Intelligence:20 (15+5)This is the proverbial golden goose. All of your character’s success will derive from this ability. It is paramount that you raise your intelligence score so that you can improve your spell save DC and your spellcasting modifier. Beyond that, this ability will help you out with some nifty skill bonuses. Note that this score has been boosted by a +1 racial bonus and two different +2 ASI bonuses.
Wisdom:12Wisdom is not a concern for this build. It is always nice to have a hearty wisdom score, because your wisdom saving throw is quite important. That being said, intelligence and dexterity take priority for this build.
Charisma:10This is a dump stat for this build. Your charisma saving bonus is so incredibly important that it deserves to take focus during this build. Spend your points on intelligence and dexterity instead.

Warning: Concerning your ability scores, the graph above is using the standard 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 ability allocation that players can use if they do not wish to roll their stats. That being said, your dungeon master may have you role for your stats rather than allocate your ability points manually.

When it comes to choosing your ability scores, the important thing to remember is that intelligence is king. Prioritize this ability above all else. After that, you have two options. If you are playing a Bladesinger, then boost your strength for some added combat effectiveness. If you are playing any other kind of wizard, then focus your efforts on boosting your dexterity.

There are many different ways to build a wizard. That being said, you will find it difficult to find a reasonable source that will suggest focusing on any ability other than intelligence.

Spell List

Image credit to DnD Beyond

This is where it all matters. When you are talking about the wizard class, it all comes down to the spells. These are the tools of your trade. If you bring faulty, ill-advised tools with you during your adventures, then you will find yourself incapable of properly assisting your party. Consequently, you could build every other part of this character well and still end up with a poor performing class. To that end, let’s make sure we pick the best spells for our wizard build.

The first thing to note is that some spells scale well and others do not. In fact, your entire spell list will likely shift as you level.

For instance, your low level spells may focus on combat during the early phases of your character. However, these low spell levels will quickly begin to shift towards utility, rather than combat, as you begin to learn higher and higher spell levels. Consequently, the best spells for a level five wizard are not necessarily the best spells for a level 20 wizard.

Your spell list will constantly be evolving. The important thing to do is to experiment and to always have a diverse spell list. Sometimes you will think a spell is quite powerful, only to realize that the spell has been sitting in your prepared spell list for several games without having been cast a single time.

Other times, you will find that a nifty utility spell you prepared proved far more useful far more often than you initially anticipated. You will have to experiment with your spell list if you want to truly optimize your wizard’s skill set because there is no single tried and true way to prepare your spells. That being said, it is advised that you generally try to provide a level of diversity in your spell list.

You will want to be able to buff, debuff, crowd control, deal area of effect damage, deal single target damage and provide out of combat utility through your spells. The specific tactics your party demands will reveal themselves as you continue to play. If you have other spellcasters within your party, you can also begin to focus on particular aspects of combat a little more rather than provide a diverse range of abilities. That being said, the provided spell list below is dedicated to providing a level of diversity in your combat effectiveness.

Spell Slot LevelSpells KnownDescription
CantripsFirebolt, Mage Hand, Message, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Light  Firebolt is the go-to damage cantrip for Wizards. The rest of the spells provide situational utility. Note that the High Elf race allowed us to choose one additional cantrip.
1st Level SpellsDetect Magic, Mage Armor, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, ShieldMage Armor and Shield will help keep you alive. Meanwhile, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter can keep an enemy at bay while your comrades get ready to deal the killing blows. Lastly, Detect Magic is a must. Luckily, you can cast it as a ritual so you will not always need it prepared. If you prefer to cast it as a ritual, consider replacing it with Protection From Good and Evil for some extra situational protection.
2nd Level Spells Hold Person, Invisibility, SuggestionHold Person and Suggestion both provide useful ways to lock down enemies. Meanwhile, invisibility can make you or a teammate capable of avoiding a combat exchange altogether.
3rd Level Spells Blink, Fireball, FlyBlink will afford you some extra sustain in battle. Fly is incredibly useful utility out of combat, but can also prove useful in combat if you or an ally need to improve your positioning. Lastly, Fireball is the trademark AoE damaging spell of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s hard to pass it up.
4th Level Spells Polymorph, Vitriolic Sphere, Locate CreaturePolymorph is one of the greatest single target control spells you are going to come across. If an enemy target fails their save, you can turn them into a sheep for an entire minute. Then, your party can take out all of their allies and leave them for last. Vitriolic Sphere is a great damage dealing spell for the 4th level, offering you an alternative from Fireball. Lastly, Locate Creature is not a spell you will use all of the time. However, its utility will likely prove incredibly useful in the long run.
5th Level Spells Cone of Cold, Dominate Person, Wall of ForceCone of Cold is an incredibly powerful AoE damage dealing spell. Dominate Person will allow you to shut down a single enemy in combat. Lastly, Wall of Force will allow you to control the battlefield by providing your allies some much needed cover or by disrupting your enemies’ positioning.
6th Level Spells Chain Lightning, Mass Suggestion, Globe of InvulnerabilityChain Lighting is an incredible AoE damage dealing spell. Mass Suggestion will allow you to lock down an entire room of enemies at once. Lastly, Globe of Invulnerability will offer you, and companions near you, some protection during battle.
7th Level Spells Plane Shift and WhirlwindPlane Shift is not a spell you will use every game. However, the utility provided by the spell will prove immeasurable when the time is right. Whirlwind is another great AoE damage dealing spell.
8th Level Spells Maze This spell is a great way to immediately lock down a single enemy in combat.
9th Level Spells ShapechangeThis spell will allow you the ability to transform into a giant monster, in which any damage you take while in the form will not count towards your actual hitpoints. If that is not to your liking, then consider Wish. Wish is generally the go-to 9th level spell.

If you have followed this guide, then you have developed a well-balanced and capable character. As mentioned before, much of playing a wizard is about experimentation. So, never feel afraid to try out a new spell. The most important strategy to remember when playing a Wizard in combat is that you do not want to get hit.

Let your comrades take the brunt of the attacks. Let them draw the attention of your enemies. Then, fire off some game changing arcane wonders from the back line.

Playing a wizard can be somewhat difficult to master, but will ultimately be worth the effort. For all your D&D needs, check out Dungeons and Dragons Guides Portal – Anything and Everything D&D.

Author

Hunter Boyce is a writer, which probably seems pretty obvious with "author" prominently displayed. He mostly writes about video games. However, he was previously a mixed martial arts news writer. When not writing about people pelting each other in the face or about leveling up in the latest RPG, he tends to spend his time as a web producer in Atlanta. You can shout all of your MMA and video game related quandaries at him at @SomthinClever on Twitter. Feel free to make your demands to him in ALL CAPS. He loves that.

Write A Comment