Sometimes the gifts that we’re born with might be unsettling in nature. Nobody knows this better than the Shadow Magic Sorcerer.
Drawing their power from the dark realm of the Shadowfell, these Sorcerers channel the force of darkness itself.
Today we’re pulling back the curtain to see what lurks in the shadows.
This is the full subclass guide to the Shadow Magic Sorcerer in D&D 5e!
What is the Shadow Magic Sorcerer in D&D 5e?
Shadow Magic Sorcerers’ power comes from the Shadowfell, a bleak realm of doom and desolation.
In one way or another, the Shadow Magic Sorcerer has been exposed to the fell energies of this realm. They might have accidentally found themselves there or been too close to an area where the veil between the Shadowfell and Material Plane is weaker.
Of course, they might also have ancestors from the Shadowfell or who happened to have the same accidental experiences. This power gets in your blood, after all, and it’s not uncommon for it to skip a couple of generations before it reemerges!
Whether your character came of a certain age or it was an instantaneous effect, Shadow Magic has awoken with you!
Role in the Party
At its core, the Shadow Magic Sorcerer is an offensive caster.
While they don’t gain any features that directly buff their casting abilities, they do gain powerful utility options to make their casting more efficient while also improving their survivability.
A Shadow Magic Sorcerer can hang with the best of casters as a blaster, but they also have a great knack for being a controller.
Once a Shadow Magic Sorcerer can summon their Hound of Ill Omen, they can overwhelm enemies with extra attacks from the hound while imposing disadvantage on the target’s saves against the sorcerer’s spells.
From there, the possibilities are almost endless. They can continue blasting the enemy down with offensive spells or render them helpless with powerful control spells!
Related: Mastering the Sorcerer’s Metamagic!
Shadow Magic Sorcerer Abilities
Because you channel the Shadowfell for your Sorcerous Origin, the features you gain from this subclass are definitely darker in nature.
Using darkness to confuse and ambush your enemies, summoning shadowy hounds, and eventually taking the form of pure shadow, you’re a force to be reckoned with!
Let’s take a closer look at your swanky new powers!
Eyes of the Dark (Level 1)
We’re kicking things off at level 1 with Eyes of the Dark!
Hey… who turned out the lights?
Starting at level 1, you have darkvision with a range of 120 feet.
Darkvision is always handy to have. Whether you’re delving into ancient tombs, navigating the Underdark, or just trying to get around your home at night without stubbing your toe on the couch, you’ll be glad to have it!
Plus, it’s got a huge range of 120 feet which is double the standard darkvision range. You’ll have plenty of time to spot enemies or couches well before they’re an immediate problem!
Also, keep in mind that this feature also gets a buff when you hit level 3.
When you reach level 3 in this class, you learn the darkness spell. This doesn’t count against your number of sorcerer spells known.
In addition, you can cast it by spending 2 sorcery points or by expending a spell slot. If you cast it with sorcery points, you can see through the darkness created by the spell.
Darkness is a fun spell that allows for a lot of creative usage. Blocking enemies’ line of sight is most common unless you have a way to see through magical darkness. (Note that standard darkvision does not let you do this!)
If you’re using sorcery points to cast this, you can avoid the issue of not being able to see in your own spell effect. Sorcery points are precious to you, but this is a good use of them if you’re planning to cast this spell.
Strength of the Grave (Level 1)
Shadow Sorcerers aren’t quite living but not quite dead. They’re in this weird in-between kind of state.
Luckily, that makes you much tougher to take down right from level 1 with Strength of the Grave!
When damage reduces you to zero hit points, you can make a Charisma saving throw (DC 5 + the damage taken). On a success, you instead drop to 1 hit point.
You can’t use this feature if you are reduced to zero hit points by radiant damage or a critical hit.
After the saving throw succeeds, you can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest.
Extra survivability (especially when you’re about to drop unconscious) is never a bad thing. It’s a bit risky since you aren’t guaranteed to make the saving throw, but it can be a saving grace (or saving grave?) when things are down to the wire.
Getting this in the early levels is especially handy.
The first few levels are when the consequences of failure tend to be the steepest. Those goblins are basic bandits hit much harder than you might think!
Many adventurers’ stories have ended before level 4. With this feature, the odds are much better that your story will continue!
Hopefully you won’t need this too often. Just don’t forget you have it!
Recommended: The Best Sorcerer Spells By Level in D&D 5e
Hound of Ill Omen (Level 6)
I hope you brought some treats because it’s time to call the very good-est doggo around.
This is your most important feature and there’s quite a bit to it. We’ll go over what the feature is then discuss how to effectively use your Hound of Ill Omen.
As a bonus action, you can spend 3 sorcery points to magically summon a hound of ill omen to target one creature you can see within 120 feet of you.
The hound appears in an unoccupied space of your choice within 30 feet of the target. Roll initiative for the hound. On its turn, it can move only towards its target by the most direct route and can use its action only to attack its target.
The hound can make opportunity attacks but only against its target.
While the hound is within 5 feet of the target, the target has disadvantage on saving throws against any spell you cast.
The hound disappears if it is reduced to zero hit points, the target is reduced to zero hit points, or after 5 minutes.
Your loyal shadow hound uses the dire wolf statistics but with a few changes!
- The hound is Medium size (instead of Large) and is a monstrosity (not a beast.)
- It appears with a number of temporary hit points equal to half your sorcerer level.
- It can move through creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. The hound takes 5 force damage if it ends its turn inside of an object.
- At the start of its turn, the hound automatically knows the target’s location. If the target was hidden, it is no longer hidden from the hound.
How’s that for a faithful hound? It might be a good idea to go ahead and give it extra treats!
Using the Hound of Ill Omen
When you summon your hound, you’re specifically choosing a target for it to go after. At a cost of 3 sorcery points, don’t waste this on weaklings or minions. This is best used when you’re ready to start dogpiling (heh, heh) a tougher enemy.
They probably can’t outrun your hound and they definitely can’t hide from it.
If you’ve got another ally next to your hound’s target, remember that the Hound of Ill Omen does benefit from the Pact Tactics feature. That gives it advantage on its attacks including an attack of opportunity if the target tries to get away.
Even better, when your hound hits an enemy, they’ll have to make a Strength saving throw to not get knocked down. If they fail, your melee combatant allies can tear them to shreds with advantage on all their attacks until the enemy stands back up.
At lower/middle levels, this is incredibly impactful. However, the damage won’t really scale once you get to the upper-middle/higher levels.
Thankfully, the hound’s main benefit is incredibly strong throughout the game.
When it’s within 5 feet of your target, that creature has disadvantage on any spells you cast. Where a Metamagic like Heightened Spell would provide this benefit to a single spell, your hound’s presence extends that to all of your spells against the target.
To use this feature well, I recommend checking out my article that covers advantage and disadvantage!
There is no limit to the number of hounds you can summon with the Hound of Ill Omen feature.
You can only summon one per turn (because it takes a bonus action) and each one will cost you 3 sorcery points. If you have the points, you can keep summoning hounds to overwhelm your enemies.
This means that you can get very tactical with how you use the Hound of Ill Omen feature.
Giving multiple enemies disadvantage on their saves can lead to some very high-impact plays.
For example, casting a spell like Hold Monster or Hold Person at a higher level lets you target even more enemies. If those enemies have one of your hounds next to them, they’re making both the initial saving throw and each subsequent saving throw at disadvantage.
Meanwhile, they’re paralyzed, and your hounds/allies are making each attack with advantage while also dealing automatic critical hits on a success if they’re within 5 feet of the target.
Plays like this are likely to earn you a look of horror and respect from your DM. Whatever you were fighting is mincemeat now!
Shadow Walk (Level 14)
At level 14, the Shadow Magic Sorcerer is taking a page from the Way of Shadow Monk’s playbook.
Can you blame them though? Teleporting between shadows is pretty awesome!
As a bonus action when you are in dim light or darkness, you can magically teleport up to 120 feet to an unoccupied space you can see that is also in dim light or darkness.
As a Sorcerer, you don’t have a ton of options when it comes to your bonus action. The biggest one in the case of the Shadow Magic Sorcerer would be your Hound of Ill Omen.
When you need a quick retreat or reposition, this is a very handy feature to have if the conditions are right. If they aren’t right, throwing your Darkness spell out will at least give you a spot to teleport to that’s 60ft away.
This is some great and versatile utility for the Shadow Magic Sorcerer’s kit!
Also Check Out: The Complete Guide to the Sorcerer Class in D&D 5e
Umbral Form (Level 18)
Finally, at level 18 you get your capstone feature as a Shadow Magic Sorcerer, Umbral Form.
You can spend 6 sorcery points as a bonus action to magically transform yourself into a shadowy form.
In this form, you have resistance to all damage except force and radiant damage and can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. You take 5 force damage if you end your turn inside an object.
You remain in this form for 1 minute. It ends early if you are incapacitated, if you die, or if you dismiss it as a bonus action.
6 sorcery points might sound like a lot, but it’s much cheaper than using your level 7 spell slot for a spell like Etherealness which does generally the same thing.
The damage resistance in this form is nice, but hopefully you’ve gotten used to using more defensive spells so that you aren’t getting hit in the first place.
If something does end up dropping you to zero hit points, at least you’ll have a much lower DC to beat with your Strength of the Grave feature. Get back up and find somewhere to Shadow Walk to fast!
Umbral Form is best used for mobility and defense.
Passing through walls, you’re able to get the jump on enemies or outmaneuver those that are trying to run.
If you see that the Ancient Red Dragon is about to unleash its Fire Breath, this gives you the option of a quick getaway to avoid the damage altogether and then rejoin the fight!
Even by Sorcerer standards, the Shadow Magic Sorcerer is a strange one!
When making your character, consider how they discovered their strange powers. How do they feel about them? Do they view these powers as a blessing in pursuit of some goal or do they view them as a curse?
I could especially see Warlocks from many different pacts taking a keen interest in the Shadow Sorcerer character. For example, an Undead Warlock might particularly be keen to learn more about your exposure to the Shadowfell’s energy and the powers it gave you.
Has your life been average up until your powers were awakened or was it one of constant sorrow? How has your bond with the darkness shaped your view of the world?
Are you adventuring to learn the truth behind your powers or are they simply a means to an end in your pursuit of gold and glory?
Depending on how much you want to lean into the creepy vibes of this subclass, you might want to check out the dark lineages from Ravenloft. These can add even more creepiness to your character, though check with your DM to make sure it’s fine!
Shadow Magic Sorcerer Quirks
Is it any wonder that your powerful shadow magic also has an effect on your physical being?
You are playing with dark energy after all!
A Shadow Sorcerer is likely to have some quirks in their physical appearance or behavior that others might find unsettling. These might not be immediately apparent, but they’ll almost always prompt a double-take.
You can pick or roll options from the table or use them as a springboard to come up with your own.
|1||You are always icy cold to the touch.|
|2||When you are asleep, you don’t appear to breathe. (You still must breathe to survive.)|
|3||You barely bleed, even when badly injured.|
|4||Your heart beats once per minute. This event sometimes surprises you.|
|5||You have trouble remembering that living creatures and corpses should be treated differently.|
|6||You blinked. Once. Last Week.|
I can’t deny my love for horror and creepy things, so here’s another table with some homebrew quirks you might also like!
|1||Your physical appearance changes subtly depending on the amount of light. |
More light shows a more attractive form, less light makes you appear more monstrous or sinister.
|2||Mirrors and other reflective surfaces show you as a withered form of yourself.|
|3||When you cast spells, those right next to you hear faint and indecipherable whispers.|
|4||Others call it “spoiled” but you think food is best when it’s well past its “sell-by” date.|
|5||Shadowy black ichor sometimes comes out of your eyes like tears. You don’t know what prompts this.|
|6||Pests and vermin like flies, rats, and centipedes are attracted to you for some reason. |
You frequently wake up to find them in your bed.
Is the Shadow Magic Sorcerer Good?
The Shadow Magic Sorcerer is an excellent subclass option with a solid mix of abilities.
It’s especially potent in games where you’ll have plenty of opportunities to use the darkness to your advantage. Adventures like
The big draw to the Shadow Magic Sorcerer is the Hound of Ill Omen.
Having a reliable way to give disadvantage on your enemies’ saving throws is simply incredible. This means your spells are more likely to land and helps you stay efficient with your spell slots.
The Shadow Magic Sorcerer blends the Sorcerer’s offensive power with a ton of handy utility.
I was admittedly a bit dismissive of this subclass when it first came out, but few (if any) Sorcerers can make openings to punish their enemies quite as well as this one.
Lesson learned: underestimate the shadows at your own peril!
Curious how the Shadow Magic Sorcerer compares to the other Sorcerous Origins? Check out my full ranking of every Sorcerer subclass in D&D 5e!
Conclusion – Shadow Magic Sorcerer in D&D 5e
There’s that light switch!
Oh! You’re still here!
I hope you’ve found this guide useful.
The Shadow Magic Sorcerer is one that really grew on me. Just reading it in the book had originally left me with an impression of “meh” but seeing how this subclass’s features perfectly line it up for some insidious and tactical plays blew my mind!
It’s got more than enough ways to make anyone who stands against you scared of the dark!
But what do you think?
Considering playing a Shadow Magic Sorcerer? Got a great character concept for one? Let’s chat in the comments!
Also, don’t forget to sign up for the Tabletop Joab newsletter with the form below. It’s the best way to get all the latest players guides, DM Tips, news, reviews, and more for D&D 5e!
If you found this article helpful and want to support the site, you can buy me a coffee here! (It’s not expected, but very appreciated!)