Wizard Schools 5E: Ranking the Wizard Subclasses

wizard subclasses 5E

Arcane magic in Dungeons and Dragons is extremely customizable. You can serve your party as a blaster, a party face, as support, or in countless other roles. Given all these options, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of wizard subclasses in 5E to choose from. In fact, Wizard offers more archetypes than any other class except for Cleric, which also has 12. While most of these options are great, some are certainly stronger than others. Let’s dive into our Wizard Schools 5E Rankings to see how they stack up!

Our Criteria for Ranking the Wizard Colleges

When we rank these subclasses, we take five important factors into account. What we do not consider is how these subclasses stand up to archetypes from other classes. For example, the best wizard subclass might be fairly middling compared to our favorite cleric. It is also worth noting that we rank two of the wizard archetypes from the Critical Role setting in this post, given that they were released in an official WOTC product. The ranking factors we use include:

  • Design. Our priority for ranking subclasses is determined by their usefulness and frequency of use by players. We place a particular emphasis on low-level abilities, as the majority of characters will not reach the maximum level. Subclasses with features that are not effective or likely to be rarely used will not be ranked highly on our list.
  • Clarity. To ensure that playing a subclass is enjoyable, it is important for the subclass to be easy to understand and not use unnecessarily complex language. Using clear and straightforward language can also help prevent misunderstandings between players and Dungeon Masters and avoid conflicts.
  • Fun. When ranking a subclass, we prioritize both enjoyment and effectiveness. The subclass you choose should offer exciting and meaningful choices that don’t put you at a disadvantage compared to other players in your group while still having a good time.
  • Theme. We consider subclasses with a cohesive and cohesive theme to be more valuable when evaluating them. If there are no other differences between subclasses, we will give preference to those that have a clear and engaging theme rather than those that lack a unifying concept.
  • Versatility. We prioritize subclasses that provide versatility and the ability to create diverse character builds when evaluating them. While it is important for a subclass to excel at a particular skill or task, the ability to adapt to various roles is even more valuable. Versatility is an important consideration in our evaluation of subclasses.

What is the Best Wizard Subclass in 5E?

Want to skip the list and find out the best school of magic? Here’s our pick!

School of Divination

Divination is the top school in our Wizard Schools 5E Rankings due to its powerful and interesting subclass features. The standout feature of this school is Portent, which allows you to roll two dice after a long rest and give yourself or a creature you can see one of those numbers instead of rolling. This can be used to increase the chances of success for an ally’s attack or force a target to automatically fail a save. The top-level feature of this school further enhances Portent. Another highlight of the Divination school is Expert Divination, which allows you to regain spell slots when you cast Divination spells of level 2 or higher and allows lower-level Divination spells to be cast as rituals. This makes the Divination Wizard a highly versatile utility caster, with the ability to also deal damage if desired due to the ability to cast additional spells.

The Best Wizard Schools 5E Ranked

Before we begin our list, I want to lay out the criteria we used. While each school has a distinct set of spells, these rankings are focused on the specific features of the subclass. Sure, some of these schools have stronger spells than others but you will generally have access to all of the wizard spells you are interested in. For that reason, the subclass features will be our focus.

It is also worth mentioning that most of these schools are good, and that your mileage may vary. In fact, any of the top 6 classes could have ranked number 1 depending on what you want out of your character. Try out what works for you! Remember, these rankings only briefly touch on the best and worst features of each subclass. The good news is that if you want a deep dive, we have a comprehensive breakdown of each school linked below!

13. Transmutation

See Our School of Transmutation Breakdown

While much of this list is up for debate, few players will dispute that Transmutation sits at the bottom of the list. The purpose of Transmutation magic is to alter the shape or structure of yourself or other objects. Unfortunately, much of what this school can do is better accomplished with a different class or subclass.

Features like Minor Alchemy allow you to temporarily change the nature of non-magical items into something else, but what could be more situational than that? Even the higher-level features like Shapechanger and Master Transmuter are only situationally useful. While Shapechanger sounds cool, it is a high-level subclass trait that makes for a worse scout than a Rogue or Divination Wizard.

The Transmuter’s Stone is the lone highlight of the class. It allows you to create a stone that, when carried, offers some very nice buffs to choose from. You can keep the stone or hand it off to a party member, or even destroy it for a boost. However, this alone does not make the class worth playing.

12. Conjuration

See Our School of Conjuration Guide

The idea of conjuration magic is certainly cool. Why fight alone when you can summon a friend to stand beside you, right? Unfortunately, conjuration in general is pretty weak in 5E. It’s not all bad, as we’ll discuss below. But there are typically better options for anything you might want to use a conjured critter for.

The biggest issue with this class is that you can only have one summoning spell running at once. this means you won’t be able to create an endless army of creatures to do your bidding. Making things worse, the subclass only offers two features that directly improve your ability to conjure. Focused Conjuration makes it harder to lose concentration on your summoning spell and Durable Summons boosts their HP significantly. That said, there is little reason not to pick another school and eventually pick up the conjuration spells you like.

11. Graviturgy

See Our Guide to the Graviturgy Wizard

One of two forms of Dunamis magic found in the Adventurer’s Guide to Wildemount, Graviturgy is without a doubt the weaker of the two. Make no mistake; the spells in this school of magic are strong and interesting. Unfortunately, the school itself offers little help with the features it includes. Also impacting our ranking is the fact that this school of magic is not available in most campaigns.

The highlight of the subclass is Event Horizon, which creates an incredible AOE effect around you. Unfortunately, it requires the effect to center on you, meaning you’ll need to wade into the middle of combat for it to be useful. After that, things get pretty situational. Shifting a creature 5 feet when you cast a spell on them is interesting, but uses for Gravity Well can be rare. The other options in this subclass are very situational.

10. Bladesinger

See Our Bladesinger 5E Breakdown

Bladesinger isn’t bad, and I really want to like it. In fact, it provides some utility with the addition of light armor even if you don’t plan on making use of your abilities with a sword. However, one of my biggest problems with a subclass is ability stat spread. Unlike every other wizard that just needs to focus on intelligence, you need to spread out your points into dexterity and constitution as well.

My other issues with this school are less about what it can do and more about what it costs. Song of Defense is awesome, as it pads your HP. Unfortunately, using it will eat up your spell slots quickly. An extra attack is always awesome, too. But by the time that you get it, your cantrips will do more damage than your weapon attacks anyway.

As a commenter mentioned in our Bladesinger breakdown, there are builds that can make this class sing if you aren’t locked into Adventurer’s League-legal builds. that being said, there are still better options out there if you are worried about optimization.

9. Enchantment

See Our School of Enchantment Guide 

The School of Enchantment isn’t bad. In fact, it is the favored class for a fair number of players. It has some nice charm effects and other boosts, but it falls short in a lot of ways. The highlight of the school is Split Enchantment. This great feature allows you to use an Enchantment Spell that targets a single creature on a second creature as well. This is enormously useful for obvious reasons.

The rest of the school is pretty “meh.” Alter Memories is situational and requires investing in your Charisma score. Hypnotic Gaze is nice, but you have to be in melee range to use it. All in all, Split Enchantment may not be enough to pick this school.

8. Necromancy

See our Necromancy 5E Guide

Necromancy is a common magical theme across a range of RPGs. Necromancers in 5E follow a similar pattern, but offer much more than just the ability to raise the dead. In fact, the strongest aspect of the school is Undead Thralls which greatly buffs the undead you bring back to life You also get a neat ability to heal yourself when you kill enemies with spells other than cantrips in Grim Harvest.

The rest is situational, especially Inured to Death. While Command Dead is very powerful when you are dealing with undead creatures not of your own creation, the degree of usefulness will depend on the type of campaign you run.

7. Chronurgy

See our Rundown of the Chronurgy Wizard

I will be honest about this ranking. Chronurgy is amazing, both in terms of available spells and subclass features. My hangup with ranking it higher has more to do with the limited ability to use it. Chronurgy only exists in the world of Wildemount, meaning it is not available in most campaigns. Despite that limitation, I love this school of wizardry.

Every class feature in Chronurgy is good to great. Chronal Shift is a great early feature that gives you some critical rerolls, and Temporal Awareness boosts your initiative rolls. At the higher levels, you can store spells for others to use on your behalf, take a creature out of the fight by sending them through time, or simply decide when a roll succeeds or fails. Great stuff here.

6. War Magic

See Our War Magic 5E Guide

Somewhere in between the schools of evocation and abjuration lies War Magic. This school is pretty powerful, although it is somewhat bland flavor-wise. The real benefits of this school are boosts to survivability. While it has a lot in common with Abjuration, War Magic is even stronger when it comes to saving throws and avoiding attacks entirely.

Arcane Deflection is central to this subclass, and it allows you to boost your AC or saving throw roll after you learn that an attack or effect hit you. This power is booster further at high levels by Deflecting shroud. At level 14, you can deal AOE force damage to hostiles within 60 feet when you use Arcane Deflection. All in all, this is a strong subclass.

5. Illusion

See Our Comprehensive Illusion 5E Guide 

I am a big fan of Illusion magic, but it comes with a caveat. The great thing about this class is the freedom to get creative. However, this type of free-form magic might not be for everyone. This magic can turn the tide of battles and be useful outside of combat, but only if you know how to wield it.

The bulk of this archetype involves expanding your use of illusion spells. Improved Minor Illusion lets you add additional effects to the spell, while Illusory Reality can turn parts of illusions into real items. While you can’t use this spell as a weapon, the ability to conjure a bridge over a river of lava could certainly come in handy. This school also offers Illusory Self, which lets you ignore one attack once per rest, which is very handy.

4. Evocation

See our Evocation 5E Breakdown 

When it comes to serving as a blaster spewing out damage, nothing compares to an Evocation Wizard. It might not be the most interesting or creative type of spellcaster, but it’s hard to argue with how much fun it can be. it is one of the least versatile schools and focuses almost entirely on maximizing your spell damage. Who doesn’t like spell damage, though?

Sculpting Spells is a nice feature that lets you help friendlies avoid some or all of the AOE spell damage you dish out. The rest of the class focuses on squeezing major damage out of lower-level spells like Burning Hands or Magic Missile. The major thing that holds it back is the lameness of Potent Cantrip. It only boosts the effects of the two wizard cantrips that require a saving throw, making it as situational as it gets.

3. Abjuration

See our Abjuration Wizard 5E Guide 

Older players might be surprised to see abjuration so high on this list. Previously an afterthought, abjuration wizards are now one of the most powerful forces on the field. This great school of wizardly does away with the “squishy wizard,” giving your character serious survivability.

Arcane Ward is a cool early game feature that boosts your HP and stacks with temporary hit points. Not only can you keep yourself alive, Projected Ward can help you funnel damage from weaker party members as well. At high levels, this class powers up Counterspell and gives resistance to spells among other things.

2. Order of Scribes

See Our Order of Scribes Guide

The newest addition to the list of Wizard subclasses is the Order of Scribes, and it has quickly become one of our favorite options. This subclass has a great theme, as your spellbook becomes your sort-of ally. You get bonuses to the amount of time it takes to copy spells and also gain expanded access to ritual casting. this subclass is popular in that it takes what the wizard is great at – having lots of spells – and gives a caster even more options for less copying effort.

1. Divination

See Our Divination Wizard 5E Guide

At the top of our Wizard Schools 5E Rankings is Divination. This might not be the best school in combat, but its subclass features are as powerful as they are interesting. Used correctly, a Divination Wizard can have a huge effect on your campaign. The best part of this school is Portent, and you get it at Level 2. You roll two dice after each long rest and record those rolls. At any point you can give yourself or another creature you can see one of those numbers instead of actually rolling. High rolls can be used when your allies make an attack. Low rolls can force a target to automatically fail a save. It’s awesome. Your top level feature boosts Portent even further, which is great.

The other highlight of this school is Expert Divination. Not only is this feature great, it is also available fairly early on. It allows you to regain spell slots when you cast Divination spells at level 2 or higher, meaning you’ll never waste a slot on a divination spell that doesn’t pan out. Even better is the fact that all lower-level divination spells can be cast as rituals. It’s hard to beat this class if your goal is to be a utility caster. The good news is that you can cast so many additional spells you have the option to dish out some damage too.

Concluding our Wizard Schools 5E Rankings

And that’s it for our Wizard Subclasses 5E rankings. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comment section below! For more hot spellcasting action, check out our Wizard 5E Guide!

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