The Arcane Trickster is one of the best subclass options available to Rogues in 5e.
Mixing the utility of arcane magic with the Rogue’s quickness, these Rogues are truly prepared for… well… pretty much anything!
But what spells should you pick as an Arcane Trickster?
This is probably the most important thing to consider when you’re playing this subclass!
So fret not, dear reader!
This blog post is going to detail the best spells for Arcane Tricksters in 5e so that you can make an informed decision when selecting your spell list.
- 1 What Type of Spells Can You Use?
- 2 What to Look For When Picking Arcane Trickster Spells
- 3 The Best Spell Options for your Arcane Trickster by Level
- 3.1 Cantrips
- 3.2 Level 1 Spells
- 3.3 Level 2 Spells
- 3.4 Level 3 Spells
- 3.5 Level 4 Spells
- 4 Conclusion
What Type of Spells Can You Use?
Arcane Tricksters don’t have the variety of spells open to them as traditional casters like Wizards, Sorcerers, or Druids.
By the time your Arcane Trickster is level 20, they will have 13 spells known. Of those, 4 can be of whatever school you fancy, but the others have to be either Enchantment or Illusion.
Because of this, you need to be a bit pickier with what spells you choose.
Now, having said that…
It’s not uncommon to see people lose interest in this incredible subclass when they learn of this restriction. But rest assured, you have plenty of fantastic options to assist you in your roguish deeds!
Besides, Enchantment and Illusion are the most fun schools of magic if you like toying with peoples’ minds!
(Yeah, I see you smiling there all mischievous-like!)
What to Look For When Picking Arcane Trickster Spells
As an Arcane Trickster, you want to primarily focus your spell selection on things that provide utility instead of outright damage.
Not only can you put out plenty of damage with your trusty Sneak Attack as it is, but your Spell Save DC is almost certainly going to be lower than a dedicated caster’s would be.
After all, your Dexterity ability score is almost certainly higher than your Intelligence score!
The ideal spells for this subclass provide a clear utility that aids your Rogue abilities and that don’t rely on forcing enemies to make saving throws.
If you want to see what kind of abilities I’m talking about, check out our full guide to the Arcane Trickster Rogue! Not only do we cover all of this archetype’s abilities in that article, but there are also ideas for connecting the character into your game world.
The Best Spell Options for your Arcane Trickster by Level
This is hardly the “be all end all” for how you HAVE to build your Arcane Trickster. However, these are the spells that I just whole-heartedly can’t recommend enough.
We’ll break these spells down by their spell level and I’ll explain why I recommend each of these options.
Let’s start at square one with the cantrips!
When you become an Arcane Trickster at level 3, you’ll get three of these. At level 10, you get a fourth.
Mage Hand (Conjuration)
Mage Hand is the biggest “must-have” on this list. That’s mostly because you literally must pick it as one of your cantrips when you take this subclass.
Despite already being a fantastically useful and versatile spell, the Arcane Trickster takes it to new levels though.
Many of your core subclass abilities will be relying heavily on your Mage Hand. This lets you use it to pickpocket, disarm traps, pick locks, and distract enemies while you follow up with a Sneak Attack (with advantage!)
Minor Illusion (Illusion)
Minor Illusion is one of those spells with virtually endless application.
A misleading set of footprints, a distracting sound of a bear roaring, or any other simple illusion can be incredibly useful when trying to mislead others.
Booming Blade (Evocation)
If you’re looking to up your damage output, Booming Blade is a solid choice. It particularly pairs well with the Rogue’s Cunning Action ability.
Smack the enemy with Booming Blade (yes, Sneak Attack would still apply if you’re clever!), use your Bonus Action to disengage, and laugh when they take damage for trying to chase you!
As a Rogue, you’re almost certainly going to need to scout ahead of the party from time to time.
That’s where the Message cantrip comes in handy. As long as one of your allies is within 120 feet, you shouldn’t have difficulty relaying information back to the group.
If you’re trying to set up an ambush or if something has happened and you need to call in the cavalry, you’ll be glad you took this!
Level 1 Spells
You know a few level 1 spells right off the bat. Keep in mind that only one of those can be a school other than Illusion or Enchantment!
In just about every situation, I strongly recommend the first pick on this list…
Find Familiar (Conjuration)
The Find Familiar spell is so useful for an Arcane Trickster that it’s almost broken.
Not only does your familiar make for an excellent scout, but it can be incredibly useful in combat as well.
This is especially true if you choose the Owl familiar. Thanks to its “flyby” ability, your feathered friend can swoop in, use the Help action (thus giving you advantage on your attack), and fly away without provoking an attack of opportunity.
If never-ending free Sneak Attacks sounds kind of cheesy, that’s because it honestly is.
If it sounds freaking awesome, that’s because it absolutely is.
Disguise Self (Illusion)
Disguise Self is great for infiltration.
With some cleverness, you can use it to frame or impersonate others for your deeds. Otherwise, you can infiltrate enemy bases as Henchman #47 or Miscellaneous Servant #23.
By the time anyone catches on to your doings, they’ll be looking for someone completely different!
Silent Image (Illusion)
Another spell that really lets you get creative, Silent Image has tons of uses.
Need a quick hiding spot? Throwing up a fake wall or box to hide behind might just save your bacon from pursuers or patrolling guards! Of course, it can also make it easier to land a Sneak Attack if you’re feeling spicy…
You might use it as a decoy to attract enemy attention away from yourself. Conversely, you might be able to make enemies run if you summon an image that’s scary enough (and it fools them!)
At low levels, the Sleep spell is almost infuriatingly powerful.
Creatures at lower levels have lower hit points, which is what this spell goes off of. No save DCs necessary!
Just put the enemies to sleep and you’re free to pick their pockets, run, take them out one by one, or all of the above!
At higher levels, it’s probably worth swapping this one out though. While you can cast it at higher levels to increase the amount of dice you roll to potentially put enemies to sleep, it just doesn’t scale quite as well beyond the early game.
But for how useful it is in the early game, it had to make it on this list!
Level 2 Spells
There are several solid picks for level 2 spells available to you, but I wanted to weed this down to the best of the best. When every spell is precious, you want options that you can rely on!
You know this had to make the list…
Invisibility does exactly what it says. Between this, the Disguise Self spell, and your natural agility, you’re an infiltration/scouting pro!
Not much more to say other than this should be on every Arcane Trickster’s spell list.
Misty Step (Conjuration)
A top contender for one of my personal favorite spells in all of 5e, Misty Step is just so freaking useful.
Cast it as a bonus action to move up to 30 feet to a point you can see.
Whether you use it to initiate combat and get a dastardly Sneak Attack or as a “Oh No!” button to get out of trouble quickly, this is a great trick to keep up your sleeve.
Shadow Blade (Illusion)
Another strong must-have spell that actually greatly boosts your combat ability! It’s hard not to love Shadow Blade!
Not only does the sword that you summon deal an impressive 2d8 damage, but it’s also dealing psychic damage (which very few creatures are resistant to!)
But it gets better!
If you’re in dim light or darkness, your attacks will automatically get advantage. So enjoy those free Sneak Attacks every round!
Because the summoned sword has the finesse property and Dexterity is almost certainly your highest ability score, you don’t even need to worry about going out of your way to get the most out of this spell. Wielding it will feel as natural as breathing!
Just summon the sword as a bonus action and let your enemies know what time it is!
I almost didn’t include this on the list, but Suggestion has completely changed so many combats that I’ve been in on either side of the DM screen.
This spell is going to require concentration as well as your enemies failing a Wisdom save.
You should have a decently high spell difficulty, but it’s still a bit of a risk using one of your (limited) spell slots. If you chose not to invest heavily in your Intelligence score, this might not be a good idea.
But if they fail, it’s up to you what they are going to spend the next period of time (up to 8 hours) doing!
Level 3 Spells
At level 13, you’ll start getting access to level 3 spells.
There’s some truly powerhouse spells at this level that fit the Arcane Trickster’s role like a glove!
As a Rogue, you’re already pretty mobile, but being able to take to the skies with Fly spell dials that up to 11.
Whether in or out of combat, there are so many great uses of this spell.
Because you only get one attack per turn, Haste can double your chances of landing a Sneak Attack. Plus, the extra movement, bonus AC, and advantage on Dexterity saves is pretty nifty.
You’ll want to be careful though. This is a concentration spell, so it can be a bit risky if you’re attracting enemy attacks!
It is possible to use this spell in a… unique way…
While under the effects of this spell, it’s technically possible to land your Sneak Attack twice.
Attack the first enemy and deal your Sneak Attack damage.
Next, use the second action granted to you by this spell to take the “Ready” action. Something along the lines of “if our Fighter attacks, I will attack X enemy.” You’d want this to be something reasonably obvious that’s going to happen to trigger your reaction.
Once your reaction is triggered, you attack again with the Ready action. However, because Sneak Attack can only be used once in a turn (not once per round), you now deal all of that extra damage if your second attack hits and you still meet the requirements for Sneak Attack.
Just be warned: it’s up to your DM if this is considered “creative” or “abuse.”
Major Image (Illusion)
With Major Image, you can make incredibly convincing images of objects, creatures, or other visible phenomenon. Short of others interacting with it and making a successful Investigation check, it seems completely real.
The only real limit here is your imagination. It’s very difficult to overhype just how versatile and useful this spell is!
Level 4 Spells
You get access to level 4 spells once you hit level 19.
For the sake of highlighting some other options, I decided to include three of the best spell options here. But, honestly, there’s one that I recommend more than anything else…
Dimension Door (Conjuration)
I like Dimension Door for all of the same reason that I like Misty Step. It’s one of those spells that’s perfect for getting you into or out of trouble as you desire.
While it takes an action to cast (versus Misty Step’s bonus action casting time), you can zip 500 feet away AND bring a friend with you.
Not too shabby and any Rogue can always use an option to make a quick getaway!
Greater Invisibility (Illusion)
Yeah, this is the one you should pick.
Okay, okay, I’ll elaborate a bit more…
Greater Invisibility lets you go invisible, but you stay that way while you’re attacking and doing whatever else.
If there is any spell that you are totally allowed to laugh maniacally while casting as an Arcane Trickster, it’s this one.
Stone Shape (Transmutation)
Stone Shape is another spell that can find tons of creative use in just about any campaign.
Enemies chasing you through a stone hallway? Just Stone Shape the door away!
Need to get inside the enemy’s castle fortress without drawing attention? As long as it’s not more than 5 feet thick, you can make yourself a door right on the side!
This spell can be very handy when it’s useful, though I don’t know that I’d pick it over the options. By this stage in the game, your allies have probably got ways to deal with most obstacles that this would overcome.
Well, that concludes my picks for the best spells for Arcane Trickster Rogues by level.
Needless to say, you won’t be able to take everything on this list. But I do hope that this article has helped you choose spells that will work well with your character and party.
If you pick your spells with care and keep a lookout for ways that you can use them in creative and effective ways, you’ll be virtually unstoppable at any level!
Are there any spells that you would add to this list? Let’s talk in the comments!
Planning on playing a Rogue? You’ll want to check out my Complete Rogue Guide for D&D 5e!
Until next time!