Do you enjoy being a tactical spellcaster viewing combat encounters more like a chess board? What about exciting spell duels and foiling enemy spellcasters’ plans?
Well then, the War Magic arcane tradition just might be exactly what you’re looking for!
Blending arcane offense and defense with unmatched strategic wit, few can have the same level of control over the battlefield as these mages.
Prepare to march forth!
This is the full guide to the War Magic Wizard in D&D 5e!
What is the War Magic Wizard in D&D 5e?
War Magic Wizards view their spells in the same way a warrior views both their shield and blade. These spellcasters stand as indispensable assets on the fantasy battlefield!
While many schools train their Wizards for war, the War Magic Wizard Tradition is a whole other ball of wax altogether.
War Mages, as they are known to be called, are the perfect mix of offense and defense.
But wait, that’s not all!
War Magic Wizards are also known for their quick and tactical situational awareness. Without fail, they are usually the first to spring into action when combat arises.
Acting early in combat encounters, these Wizards are excellent at setting and controlling the course of the encounter.
After all, a wizard who acts first is a useful and deadly wizard. In other words, the exact kind of spellcaster who would be welcome in any D&D party!
The War Magic Tradition lends itself to wizards who like to control the battlefield while also avoiding the chaotic and nasty side effects of arcane energies and gnarly double-bladed axes coming at them.
The War Magic Wizard is published in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Role in the Party
The role of a War Magic Wizard in a party is crucial and multifaceted.
This subclass of wizard excels at being a frontline spellcaster, capable of both offense and defense. They provide invaluable support through battlefield control and damage-dealing spells while enhancing the party’s overall survivability with their defensive abilities.
So, there’s really a lot to unpack when it comes to the War Magic Wizard’s exact role…
The varying roles open to a War Mage are only limited by the player’s imagination. Some possible roles could include:
- Tactician – Players who love battlefield control, positioning, and disadvantaging foes will appreciate the War Magic wizard’s abilities to counterspell, dispel, and manipulate the combat environment.
- Resilient Spellcaster – For those who want their wizard or mage to be able to take some hits and survive right on the frontlines, the War Magic tradition’s defensive abilities lend durability.
- Battle Mage – Players seeking a blend of martial prowess and magic will like enhancing their melee combat with tactical spells and abilities like Power Surge.
- Disruptor – If you love shutting down enemy magics and foiling their plans, countering and dispelling spells with Power Surge makes War Magic a good fit.
- Protector – Supporting and protecting allies from harm is easier for this tradition, able to use Warding Wind and Arcane Deflection to reduce damage to friends.
- Balanced Build – Those who enjoy magic but don’t want to be a stereotypical squishy “glass cannon” wizard may appreciate War Magic’s well-rounded capabilities.
- Eldritch Knight’s Ally – Fighters who choose Eldritch Knight will likely appreciate having a War Magic wizard in the party for shared battle tactics.
- Strategist – For thoughtful players who enjoy using clever positioning and combos, War Magic provides plenty of opportunity for creative strategy.
In general, the War Magic tradition offers a nice blend of durability, disruption, and control for the tactically minded.
Meanwhile, it also caters nicely to Wizard players who want to get in the thick of battle and employ magic in synergy with more physical combat or melee-leaning spells.
War Magic Wizard Features 5e
While the essence of the War Magic tradition portrays War Mages as straddling offense and defense, this subclass primarily leans into defense – and does so exceptionally well!
As we covered in the last section, the War Magic Wizard fills many strategic roles in the party. It can seem like a very tall order, but they absolutely have the kit to pull it off!
See for yourself!
Recommended: Using and Managing the Wizard’s Spellbook
Arcane Deflection (Level 2)
As a Wizard, you are a major target for enemies that are aware of what someone with your type of arcane talents is capable of.
Sure, some enemies like giant spiders or oafish Hill Giants will likely focus on whatever is closest to them. But more tactical-minded enemies know that few things can completely turn an encounter around like a Wizard that’s left to their own devices!
In times like that, you’ll be thankful for a very nice bit of extra magical defense!
When you are hit by an attack or you fail a saving throw, you can use your reaction to gain a +2 bonus to your AC against that attack or a +4 bonus to that saving throw.
When you use this feature, you can’t cast spells other than cantrips until the end of your next turn.
This feature bears some similarity to the Shield spell, though there are some key differences to be aware of.
As with the Shield spell, Arcane Deflection uses your reaction to give you a handy boost to your AC. This quick +2 bonus can genuinely be a lifesaver.
Not bad! Especially considering this isn’t costing you a spell slot!
However, unlike the Shield spell, you can also use this to give your saving throws an extra bump. This translates to an impressive 20% increased chance of success against spellcasting adversaries.
The fact that this occurs as an immediate reaction is nothing short of remarkable!
So, Arcane Deflection is certainly a cool and useful feature to have, but you must stay mindful of the catch…
When you use this feature, you won’t be able to use your spells on your next turn. (Thankfully, cantrips still work though.)
So, if you really need to use magic next turn, you should think carefully about whether it’s worth it to use this feature now.
If you’re already pretty healthy, you might be able to take some hits without using Arcane Deflection.
This is especially true if you are planning to use a powerful spell like Hold Person or Faerie Fire. It might be worth taking the hit so that you can cast a spell that can have a major effect on the encounter.
Be sure to think ahead and make the best choice for the situation!
Not to mention, this is also excellent for use outside of combat when dealing with things like traps or saving throws against things like exhaustion!
Tactical Wit (Level 2)
War Magic Wizards are master tacticians. This allows them to quickly determine how to make the biggest impact in combat.
You can give yourself a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your Intelligence modifier
Capitalizing on initiative bonuses offers major advantages. Seizing the opportunity to act swiftly allows you to kick things off by unleashing AoE, buffing, or controlling spells that can easily shape the entire course of the battle.
This feature not only showcases your intelligence but also allows you to dictate the flow of combat and gain a significant advantage over your foes. Your party will adore you for it!
If you really want to keep a first-move advantage, taking the Alert feat can really help ensure your War Mage acts first more often than not.
Power Surge (Level 6)
War Magic Wizards balance their use of both offensive and defensive magic.
With the Power Surge feature you gain at level 6, you’re able to use the energy from magic effects that you counter or dispel to empower your offensive spells.
You can store a maximum number of power surges equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of one). Whenever you finish a long rest, your number of power surges resets to one.
Whenever you successfully end a spell with Dispel Magic or Counterspell, you gain one power surge, as you steal magic from the spell you foiled. If you end a short rest with no power surges, you gain one power surge.
Once per turn, when you deal damage to a creature or object with a Wizard spell, you can spend one power surge to deal extra force damage to that target. The extra damage equals half your Wizard level.
This can be a great incentive to also focus on using your defensive spells in combat.
Not only are you able to foil an enemy caster’s plans, but you’re able to add some extra “oomph” to a future offensive spell that you’re casting.
However, there are a couple of downsides to this feature that need to be commented on…
If you’re playing an adventure that sees you encountering plenty of enemy spellcasters, this becomes more consistently useful. Similarly, there are hopefully a reasonable number of magical effects that you can dispel to also build your Power Surges.
But if those things are rare, you’ll get very little use out of this feature.
The second downside is that the extra damage that you get from using a Power Surge is pretty small. Since it’s equal to half of your Wizard level, it’s only 3 extra damage when you get this feature and is 10 extra damage at max level.
If you’re adding this extra damage to a single-target spell like Chromatic Orb or Blight, it’s fairly forgettable.
However, applying this Power Surge to your AoE spells is another story entirely!
If you apply that extra 3 force damage to a Fireball that’s hitting 6 enemies, you’ve effectively turned that into 18 extra points of damage.
This is easier to accomplish than you might initially think.
Remember: with your Tactical Wit you should be able to go pretty early in most combat encounters. More often than not, enemies tend to be clustered together in that first round which makes them a prime target for a Power Surged AoE spell!
Durable Magic (Level 10)
The abundance of valuable concentration spells in D&D 5e is simply overwhelming. These are usually powerful spells with effects that can entirely change how an encounter goes.
The Durable Magic feature just adds to the incentive of using these spells (that you’re probably already using).
While you maintain concentration on a spell, you have a +2 bonus to AC and all saving throws.
Think about it: Cause Fear, Haste, Darkness, Web, Hypnotic Pattern, and many, MANY more are all examples of potentially high-impact concentration spells. The battlefield stands to benefit greatly from having a concentration spell in play already, and you have no shortage of options.
But here’s the kicker…
By maintaining that concentration, you’re boosting your odds of evading enemy attack rolls by an extra 10% while also enjoying a 10% bump for your saves against spells, traps, and other perils.
Of course, that’s also helping your saving throws to maintain that concentration as well!
This is an excellent buff and is often invaluable to keeping your spells going and your character safe and sound from harm! All this for just keeping a concentration effect going!
And the beauty of it? You can still couple this with Arcane Deflection, potentially scoring a whopping +6 on a saving throw.
You should get a lot of powerful mileage out of this feature.
I’d particularly recommend triggering this with summoning spells like Conjure Minor Elemental that have long durations to get the most out of this feature.
Deflecting Shroud (Level 14)
For the War Magic Wizard’s capstone feature, we’re now getting a boost to our Arcane Deflection feature.
The Deflecting Shroud feature is a consistent extra damage dealer that really shines against hordes of weaker foes.
When you use your Arcane Deflection feature, you can cause magical energy to arc from you. Up to three creatures of your choice within 60 feet of you each take force damage equal to half your wizard level.
Unlike Arcane Deflection, Deflecting Shroud doesn’t require an attack or failed save to trigger – it just deals force damage to up to 3 creatures whenever you’re concentrating on a spell.
Pretty neat, right?
While it may not seem like massive damage, remember that this extra annoyance ignores action economy, ranges, and triggering conditions.
Those limitations can really handcuff your cantrips sometimes.
But Deflecting Shroud? It just keeps calmly zapping baddies round after round!
This makes this great for whittling down clusters of minions or softening up groups before an AOE spell. After all, why slowly plink away with Fire Bolt when you can barrage distant enemies for free?
This won’t replace your heavy hitters, but it certainly takes some pressure off.
At higher levels, it makes Arcane Deflection more appealing by offsetting the loss of a leveled spell for a turn.
Deflecting Shroud is an automatic extra bit of pain that really shines when facing hordes. Don’t underestimate its consistent, action-free annoyance! It may not seem incredible, but it delivers reliable value every single turn.
Just remember – death by a thousand magic darts can be just as effective as one giant fireball!
Wizards are incredibly varied characters that can have tons of different reasons for joining an adventuring party. War Magic Wizards are certainly no exception!
The nature of the War Magic tradition definitely plays to a Wizard who has a military background. They’re certainly vital parts of any army!
Others may find this application of arcane knowledge very well-suited to the life of an adventurer. Seeking knowledge, personal gain, or opportunities to further develop their arcane skills are all perfectly valid reasons for a War Magic Wizard to set out on an adventure.
These characters are certainly capable of going on the offensive and will gladly do so. However, they also know the value of a well-executed defense and are quick to protect themselves and their allies.
A War Magic Wizard is likely to focus heavily on working on the party’s overall strategy. They especially want to look for certain synergies and tactics that they can implement with other party members.
This can be excellent for getting characters to mingle with the War Wizard in a way that offers fun roleplaying but also serves a strategic purpose for what lies ahead.
Is the War Magic Wizard Good?
It’s a painful mystery why the War Magic Wizard seems to be so wildly underrated among 5e players.
Sure, Power Surge might be a little underwhelming as a feature, but there is seriously so much to love about the War Wizard’s kit!
The bonus to initiative and ample uses for Arcane Deflection (especially for saving throws) are certainly not small details!
Wizards are certainly gifted blasters, but a Wizard’s biggest contribution in combat is how they can completely control the battlefield. The War Magic Wizard does this beautifully and, most importantly, early in the encounter!
And don’t even get me started on Durable Magic – it practically hands you a +2 boost to your AC and saving throws, all for next to nothing.
Oh, and Deflecting Shroud? It’s seriously a game-changer in the right encounter while still being consistently useful outside of such encounters.
The best part? There’s no catch!
You’d think something like Power Surge might be a letdown, but even it manages to give you more reasons to sling those anti-mage spells. Who doesn’t love a duel between spellcasters?!
If you’re on the hunt for a Wizard who’s not only going to survive past level 2 but also become an absolute strategic powerhouse of damage and combat control, this is the way to go!
Conclusion – War Magic Wizard in D&D 5e
But that’s it for this guide to the War Magic Wizard in D&D 5e. I hope you’ve found this helpful!
With a focus on resilient spellcasting and disrupting the plans of enemy magic users, the War Magic tradition sacrifices some raw power for increased durability and battlefield control abilities.
But it’s a fantastic trade-off that really deserves more love than this subclass typically gets.
What are your thoughts on the War Magic Wizard? Let’s chat in the comments!
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