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Saturday, 19th September, 2015, 11:53 PM #1
Scout (Lvl 6)
[GUIDE] Playing Dice with the Universe: A Slant Guide to Wild-Magic Sorcerer
Playing Dice with the Universe: A Slant Guide to Wild-Magic Sorcerer
I stand up next to a mountain,
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand.
Well, I stand up next to a mountain.
I chop it down with the edge of my hand.
I pick up all the pieces and make an island,
Might even raise a little sand.
-Jimi Hendrix, Wild-Magic Sorcerer
Hello and welcome! This is a guide for building and playing a wild-magic sorcerer. If you are looking for a general sorcerer guide, I recommend Power Overwhelming by RhaegarT. Stick around if you are interested in maximizing your fun and maybe usefulness by playing a wild-magic sorcerer.
You might be wondering about those colors. This guide will use the color-coding system popular in such guides, here described in relation to some well-known saints:
Saint Francis of Assisi (gold) All around great, universally desirable.
Joan of Arc (light blue) Great value in an unassuming package, can lead your nation to liberation, but may have a small flaw (flammability in Joan's case).
The Virgin Mary (Who else are you going to put in blue?) Not always the most direct approach but can really hit it out of the park from time to time.
Saint George (green) If you need a dragon killed, can help, but may not be the right tool for most jobs.
Saint Augustine (purple) Takes a while to do much of anything, and output is questionable.
Saint Patrick (red) Only useful for driving snakes off islands where there were no snakes in the first place.
Now that that's settled, let's get on with talking about wild-magic sorcerer (henceforth WMS). You most likely entered this guide thinking something along the lines, I know in my heart that WMS makes for the best PCs, but I wish someone would enumerate for me why. Boy oh boy, did you click to the right place.
Reasons you want to play WMS:
- You are a bit of a daredevil.
- You enjoy adapting on the fly to new circumstances.
- You want to manipulate luck.
- You take pleasure in RPing unique and unexpected situations.
- You like strong but flexible fluff that enables you to create a unique and intriguing backstory.
- You like the idea of having a remote chance to win an encounter or end a campaign with any given spellcast.
- You have a healthy, loving, and supportive relationship with your DM.
Reasons you might not want to play WMS:
- You, your DM, or the rest of your party hate fun.
- That's about all I can think of.
There is a certain emphasis on DMs on those lists because, much as we may dislike it, a DM who dislikes WMS can significantly hinder the PC's performance and the player's fun, while a favorable DM can help you unleash your wild potential. This is because wild-magic surge rolls are triggered only when the DM gives the okay. Thus, the first step in character creation is to discuss with the DM when he or she will have you roll for wild magic (including after you have used tides of chaos). Push for rolling after every spell cast. You want all the wild-magic surges you can get. Consider bribery. (There are other discussions to be had about interactions between class features and certain spells, but put them aside for later.)
If your DM is cool, you can move on with character creation. As far as ability scores go, WMS has the same priorities as the more-boring varieties of sorcerer:
Dexterity Your second-best score. Affects your armor class and initiative, and it's one of the most common saves.
Constitution Third best (or closer to 2a, in my opinion), contributing to HP. Another very common save.
Intellect Nuh-uhthough you might want to prioritize it over strength so you don't have to RP a total idiot.
Wisdom Probably the third most common save, and some important skills.
Charisma Saving the best for last. This is your spellcasting ability, and the skills are good, too. Get it as high as you can.
With that in mind, you can get on with picking races.
Dorf, hill Con is good, Wis and extra HP are decent.
Dorf, mountain Str does nothing for you, but the armor proficiencies are interesting, especially if you have a low Dex modifier.
Duergar (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) A couple of free spells is handy, but sunlight sensitivity is a steep price to pay. There's not much else here for us.
Elfieboots, high Dex is good, proficiency in perception is good, but the only thing appealing about the sub-race is the cantrip. Since that's cast with your Int, it's probably not ideal. Besides, elves are dweebs.
Elfieboots, wood Dex and Wis, a little extra speed and sneakiness. Meh, still dweebs.
Elfieboots, dark Cha is excellent, Dex is good, and a few extra spells which use Cha. They're all concentration spells, which limits their value, but faerie fire could see some serious usage in tandem with scorching ray. That said, the emo elves do have their sunlight drawback. (Because they're just so sensitive. You don't understand them at all, Mom.) Their grim fluff might be at odds with the gung-ho nature of WMS, but maybe that's an opportunity for a complex character. Also dweebs.
Elfieboots, eladrin (Dungeon Master's Guide) Int is wasted, but a free ninja teleport once per rest is pretty spiffing. So dweeby you have to read the DMG to find them.
Halfling, lightfoot Cha and Dex, free re-rolls on critical fails, and the ability to move past or hide behind medium creatures. Not bad for a race that makes gnomes look tall.
Halfling, lightfoot All the same general halfling traits, but Con is a downgrade from Cha, and poison resistance is worse than stealthiness.
Halfling, ghostwise (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) Wis is a further downgrade, and one-way telepathy doesn't make up for the loss.
Human, boring Bonuses to all ability scores is great, and . . . uh . . . lots of stupid name examples.
Human, variant but also boring Starting with a feat is really goodto the point where almost every damage optimized build of any class begins with a variant human. DMs really should not allow them, but if yours does, the resilient (Dex) or lucky feat will make a great starting point for any WMS. You even still get a couple of ability-score boosts which you can apply where they're most effective.
Dragonborn Cha is good, but Str is useless. The puke attack is essentially a limited-use AoE cantrip, and its DC probably won't be terrible because it relies on Con. Damage resistance could theoretically be a protection against the dreaded self-centered fireball result on the wild-magic-surge table, but that's an awfully remote consideration.
Gnome, forest Int is wasted, though Dex is good. Minor illusion is decent. Advantage on Int, Wis, and Cha saves can be a life saver in the Wis department, but Int and Cha saves are almost unheard of. Gnomes do make a good match for WMS from an RP perspective, since their natural curiosity can be tied into their origin story, and it explains why they are so incautious about their powers.
Gnome, rock Con is a slight downgrade from Dex, and the other racials are mostly RP related.
Gnome, drow (Elemental Evil) More or less the same as forest gnome, subbing some stealthiness for minor illusion. The optional feat provides decent spells that work outside the usual spell-slot economy, but as with all feats, you have to give something up to get it.
Half-elf - +2 to Cha, +1 to two other abilities, and two skills make the half-dweeb one of the top choices for any Cha-based class.
Half-elf, variants (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) These variants are all very nice, giving you options to customize your WMS to suit your tastes and campaign. The half-drow especially, having drow magic without the sunlight sensitivity, may be the single best sorcerer option.
Half-orc Small Con bonus, intimidation, and the ability to not go unconscious once a day are all you get from forc.
Tiefling Immediately under the box that explains tieflings' unpopularity, they get a big Cha bonus. Figure that out. The Int is wasted, but a little bit of fire resistance and a few extra spells never hurt anyone. May smell like rotten eggs.
Tiefling, feral (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) You're better off with the Cha.
Tiefling, devil's tongue (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) Alternative spells but not significantly better ones.
Tiefling, hellfire (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) A small upgrade.
Tiefling, winged (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) Um, so, hey, you want +2 Cha and the ability to fly? Yeah, go with this option.
Tiefling, abyssal (UA: That Old Black Magic) The random spells are thematically appropriate to WMS, true, and most of the possibilities are useful, but the real draw here is that you replace that nigh-pointless Int with Con, and there's a little HP bonus on top.
Aasimar (Dungeon Master's Guide) Cha and Wis, two resistances, and okay free, Cha-based spells.
Aarakocra (Elemental Evil) Dex is good, Wis is decent. Flying is remarkably powerful in outdoor campaigns but not much use in dungeons. As a very minor (but entertaining) consideration, birdfolk have very short lives, so a few unlucky rolls on the wild-magic-surge table could put you at risk of dying of old age.
Genasi, air (Elemental Evil) Con and Dex, both good, and a free levitate.
Genasi, earth (Elemental Evil) Str goes to waste, and the other perks have only situational value.
Genasi, fire (Elemental Evil) A little resistance and a couple of okay spells.
Genasi, water (Elemental Evil) Wis is okay, a few decent spells, and swimming perks.
Goliath (Elemental Evil) Half-orc, take two.
Changeling (UA: Eberron) Cha and Dex, a little bit of trickiness.
Shifter, beasthide (UA: Eberron) Con, Dex, some survivability.
Shifter; cliffwalk, longstride, razorclaw (UA: Eberron) Dex and a few nifty tricks.
Shifter; longtooth, wildhunt (UA: Eberron) Longtooth does nothing for you. Wildhunt's Wis advantage is something . . . but not enough.
Warforged (UA: Eberron) Half-orc, take three.
Minotaur (UA: Waterborne) Half-orc, take four, only with a two-hander glued to your head.
Let's skip the class section for just a minute.
I don't want to get into your background too much. I just don't think we've reached that level of intimacy yet. Also, it's mostly an RP consideration, so pick one that suits your character vision. If you're stumped for skill proficiencies, consider that perception is good for just about everyone. Having high Cha, you will likely need to take the lead in some social encounters, so look for persuasion, intimidation, and/or deception. After that, just about any Wis skill is worth picking up.
From a fluff standpoint, I think that folk hero and hermit make good matches to WMS. The first might have been rewarded (or punished) with his or her powers by local spirits or fey creatures for his or her heroics, while the second may have gone into seclusion to hide or come to grips with an unexplained connection to magic.
So that's everything to do with making your character. . . . except the thing this guide is actually about.
Class. That's right, we're all about class.
Sorcerer makes, by far, the best wild-magic sorcerer. All other classes are sub-optimal. So what does sorcerer entail?
Lousy hit points d6 based, the worst of the worst, but we're stuck with it.
No armor Just keeps getting more enticing, eh?
Weak weapons Who needs weapons?
No tools Not really a big deal.
Saving throws, Constitution and Charisma Con is probably the most common, and it helps with concentration saves. Cha is not and does not.
Skills, Cha based, Wis based, or Int based Persuasion and intimidation are two oft-needed get your way skills, so start with one of those. Deception can be very handy in negotiation or interrogation, while insight helps you to adapt to new settings more quickly, in both social and imperiled modes. Arcana and religion have more specific uses.
A light crossbow with ammo or any simple weapon Neither option will see much use, as cantrips will usually do more damage.
A component pouch or an arcane focus Functionally, these are the same, but you can tie the focus into your backstory. My WMS, for example, uses a magical acorn which he believes was conferred on him by an arch-fey or maybe Silvanus himself.
A dungeoneer's pack or an explorer's pack Pretty similar, mostly just a way to be able to RP without worrying too much about the basic logistics of life.
Two daggers If you run out of spell slots, dual-wielding daggers might actually do more damage than casting cantrips. . . . until your cantrips scale up at fifth level.
Spellcasting Yes, that's an important thing. Like, all of it. It's basically why you're not a barbarian. Take note especially of the spells-known restrictions. Sorcerers have an extremely limited number of spells, so you have to be very selective when picking them. On the plus side, you can swap one out at each level.
Wild Magic Wild-magic sorcerers make the best wild-magic sorcerers.
Draconic Bloodline No. Dragons are lame.
Favored Soul (UA: Modifying Classes by Making Broken Variants) Just go be a cleric already.
The Other OneYou Know, Weatherman or Whatever (UA: Waterbabies or Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide) No. Just no.
Font of Magic The first stuttering steps toward the flexibility which is the sorcerer's greatest strength. Generally, you will crunch spell slots to make sorcery points to fuel metamagic, but, as WMS wants to cast as many spells as possible to trigger wild-magic surges, we have more call than the average sorcerer for exchanging the other direction.
Metamagic Really what makes a sorcerer distinct from any other spell caster, the ability to cast a single spell in manifold ways. Let's set the individual options aside for now and come back to them after we've looked at the other WMS features.
Ability Score Improvement Yeah, sure, why not?
Sorcerous Restoration Better than not having it, I guess, but it's not a breathtaking capstone by any measure.
And now for the real fun! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, are you ready for some wild magic? I said, are you ready for some WIIILD MAAAGIIIC?!
Wild Magic Surge Rather than try to summarize an enormous set of outcomes, I am going to run through them all, as understanding the table is critical to understanding how to play WMS to fullest effect, hence to understanding which spells and metamagic to take. Ground rules to remember about wild-magic surges: 1) They can happen only once per turnbut there is a chance of them happening on enemy turns if you cast a spell with your reaction. 2) They cannot be affected by metamagic. 3) Concentration spells cast in a surge do not require or interrupt concentration. They therefore last their full durations. 4) Results that call for you to cast a spell do not exhaust a spell slot.
There are fifty results, all equally likely:
- Roll on the table for the next minute This is the big jackpot.
- See invisible creatures Situationally good, usually useless.
- Modron appears Depends on DM.
- Self-centered fireball Near allies or near enemies.
- Free magic missile Light 'em up.
- Height change Mostly RP, though could potentially change your size class.
- Self-centered confusion Near allies or near enemies. PCs will, on the whole, have higher Wis than monsters, and are thus less likely to be confused.
- HP regen Good if you're getting dinged up but may do nothing if you're not in the thick of things.
- Feather beard Mostly RP.
- Self-centered grease - Near allies or near enemies. If you don't fall prone immediately and have movement left, remember to leave the area so you don't have to save again at the end of your turn.
- Creatures have disadvantage on saves against your next spell Let loose with the biggest fire hose you've got.
- Blue skin Mostly RP.
- Third eye Advantage on perception checks is mighty out of combat, not quite as mighty in it.
- Free quickened spells for a minute Not as great as it might look at first glance, for two reasons. First, it stops you from casting a spell after you have used your bonus action for anything else, such as converting sorcery points into a spell slot. Second, if your DM rules that it applies to cantrips, you're left with nothing to do with your action except mundane things like attack, dash, dodge, disengage, etc. Of course, there is basically no cost to doing one of those.
- Ninja teleport Very nice, assuming you have somewhere you want to go.
- Brief planar vacation Costs you a turn but also makes you unassailable for a round. Might end concentration, depending on your DM.
- Maximum damage on your next spell Fire hose.
- Age change Mostly RP, though, as mentioned earlier, it can retire a birdperson.
- Flumph party DM dependent.
- Self-heal Usually good.
- Potted plant This one's pretty dangerous. You are vulnerable to everything, can't take reactions, and may lose concentration (depending on DM ruling). Fortunately, it lasts only until the start of your next turn, so (if you survive) you can act normally. (Somewhat aside, the incapacitated condition specifies that you cannot perform actions or reactions, but it says nothing about movement. Thus, RAW, you can move while you are a plant. Your DM might have other ideas, though.)
- Free ninja teleports for the next minute The range isn't great, but they're bonus-action teleports, free if you need them.
- Levitate on self Can put you out of range of attackers but also stops you from going anywhere, unless you can reach a wall or ceiling.
- Unicorn appears DM dependent.
- Self-silence Stops you from casting spells with vocal components, which is almost every spell you want to be casting. Spells which you can still cast include absorb elements, counterspell, hypnotic pattern, catapult, ice knife, and a few cantrips, including minor illusion.
- +2 AC and immunity to magic missile Nothing to complain about here.
- Immunity to alcohol intoxication Mostly RP, though an astute DM will note that this does not give you immunity to alcohol poisoning. Don't drink yourself to death.
- Sudden hair loss Mostly RP.
- You are the fire-starter You set all your own stuff on fire, potentially damage quest items, maybe burn the whole town down. There's always a chance you can find a way to turn it to your advantage, though.
- Spell-slot recharge You want to cast more spells, right? Of course you do.
- Just gotta shout Mostly RP.
- Self-centered fog cloud Near allies or near enemies. After reading errata: near allies or near enemies. I think. Actually, the errata doesn't really clarify it much for me. The wording is, . . . you are effectively blinded when you try to see something obscured by [a heavily obscured area]. Wouldn't something be obscured whether you're looking into or looking out of a fog cloud? Might be a case of DM interpretation.
- Free mini chain lightning Fiiire hooose!
- Frightened of the nearest creature Could cause you to take a bit of damage and do a little less. It only lasts a turn, fortunately.
- AoE invisibility Near allies or near enemies. You might wind up having to apologize to your party for this one. Most of these effects get better near the enemy, but this one gets much worse. And it can really turn the tide of a battle.
- Resistance to everything Take half damage for ten rounds. This is nuts.
- Random poison Near allies or near enemies.
- Blinding to behold At last, the inner magnificence of the WMS is made visible to all. This can theoretically cause problems if for some reason your allies need to stand around you, but mostly it just punishes villains for having the impudence to assault your exalted personage.
- Self-polymorph Is there a color worse than red? This is banana yellow. This is puke green. The worst result on the table except maybe the potted plant, this one can completely stuff you for an hour. Remember, surge spells don't require concentration, so the only ways to end this are some kind of anti-magic spell or someone beating up on the sheep until you revert. Fortunately, you have a chance to save; gnomes and wildhunt shifters have advantage.
- Illusory flutters Mostly RP.
- Extra action Generally pretty great. The only catch is if you cast a spell as a bonus action earlier this turn, the DM might rule that you can only cast a cantrip with this action.
- Vampiric AoE Near allies or near enemies.
- Free mirror image No-cost slipperiness.
- Random fly Near allies or near enemies.
- Personal invisibility and inaudibility Sneaky sneaky.
- Free reincarnation You liked being alive, right? Good, do that again. Of course, you'd rather not need it at all, but this is incredibly powerful.
- One-size larger Might be fun to grapple a bit, but this doesn't really help a caster much.
- AoE piercing vulnerability Near allies or near enemies. Just plain odd.
- Ethereal music Mostly RP
- Sorcery-point refuel There's always the risk of getting this when you don't need it, but if you get it at the right time, oh baby.
There it is, the entire table broken down for easy digestion. To tally, there are seven gold ratings (14%), things you are happy to have virtually any time they come up. There are eight light blues (16%), signifying effects that are less powerful but you're still happy to have. There are six solid blues (12%), mostly ancillary effects and oddities which are on the whole positive. 42% of the table is definitively positive.
There are two green results (4%) which are slightly positive, nine (18%) which are RP centric, and three (6%) which depend on how the DM plays them. (Two of them summon creatures within five feet of you, so you might actually be able to use them for cover.) 28% of the table runs neutral to slightly positive.
Three purples (6%) represent results which are negative on balance but might have some useful attributes, and three reds (6%) comprise the worst, outcomes with no redeeming value. 12% negative effects move the total to 82%. What about the other 18%?
What remains are the situationally good or bad results, six of which (12%) are better if you're near enemies and three (6%) near allies (including self-centered fog cloud, which is something of an edge case). This is important for understanding how to optimize your play. If you are near (for most effects, within thirty feet of) your enemies but not your allies, you push the number of positive outcomes up to 54%, while increasing the negative to only 18%.
Conclusions to be drawn from all this:1. You want to be rolling on the table. The plurality of results is positive, and the next largest group is neutral, followed by situationally good or bad. The outright negative effects are the smallest set.Not only that, but only one result (self-centered fireball) directly damages you; the negatives either make you vulnerable or make you less effectual, but you don't have to worry much about a surge roll killing you (at least not outright). Of the purple results, two last a single round, and one red outcome expires at the start of your next turn. This means that half the negative results will leave you casting as normal after a brief interruption. You also have a chance to resist one red.But there's even more. The worst red result (self-polymorph) and five of the situationally good or bad results are spells. That matters because there is absolutely nothing stopping you from casting counterspell to prevent them (once you have access to counterspell, of course). In most cases, such as the self-centered fireball, counterspell will automatically succeed. Against polymorph, it's functionally a second chance to save. (Okay, technically, in some cases there is something stopping you, and that is that you can't cast a second spell, even as a reaction, on a turn when you cast a spell with a bonus action.)2. You want to be near your enemies. Not only do 12% of the results get better near enemies, but 10% more (+2 AC and magic-missile immunity, damage resistance, free reincarnation, two self-heals) have no value if you're not in harm's way. You are D&D's version of a suicide bomber.3. You want to be in a position to cast AoE spells. Two of the gold results (disadvantage to enemy saves, maximized damage) can affect any number of targets, so you multiply their power by using them with AoEs. One further gold (free mini chain lightning) is nearly an AoE in its function, and most of the good-or-bads are true AoEs.With these conclusions, we have begun to shape a lens through which to view the WMS playstyle. Let's check out the other cool perks we get to see how they refine it.
Tides of Chaos This would be pretty good if it just gave you advantage, but the fact that it allows the DM to make you roll directly on the table and gets recharged in the process makes it golden . . . pending the DM plays along, of course. Against melee- or archer-type enemies, you probably want to use it offensively as early and often as possible, in order to front-load damage and give the DM the opportunity to trigger a surge. Against anything that uses spells or spell-like effects (e.g., dragon puke), it might be better to save it for . . . saves. As RulesJD points out, you can also use it on your initiative roll.
Bend Luck Eats your reaction and two sorcery points for a destitute man's bless/bane. There are few situations where this will make enough difference to justify the cost, but fortunately you know whether the roll succeeds before you decide to use this. The best use may be on allies' concentration saves, when you will also know the DC and be able to see the d20 roll.
Controlled Chaos Makes the surge table even more inviting. [Insert caveat about DMs and surge rolls here.]
Spell Bombardment Can add a little bit of damage once per turn. At first blush, it's underwhelming, since the most damage it could possibly add to a spell is 12, but this is another case where value can be multiplied with AoEs (or with magic missile, pending DM ruling). What's more, the limit is once per turn, not once per round, so ongoing AoEs and delayed effects can trigger it on opponents' turns. Unlike the elemental affinity which the draconic-bloodline types get, this can be applied to spells of any damage type: force (disintegrate), bludgeoning (erupting earth), piercing (insect plague), radiant (sunbeam, sunburst), necrotic (finger of death), as well as the usual elemental stuff. I would rate it light blue if we got it earlier.
Something to think about:Spoiler:
Returning to the list of conclusions from earlier,
- You want to be rolling on the table (even more with controlled chaos).
- You want to be near your enemies.
- You want to be in a position to AoE. We can add,
- To get the most from tides of chaos, you want spells with attack rolls.
- To get the most from spell bombardment, you want to roll big dice and lots of dice.
Metamagic, Part Deux
As promised, now that we've seen the other other class and origin features, we can break down the metamagic options.
Careful Spell This dovetails with our AoE imperative, but remember that a successful save against virtually any AoE damage spell only protects the target from half damage and side effects. Thus, you are better off actually being careful than needing careful spell (or your allies are better off, anyway). There are, however, AoE control spells, such as hypnotic pattern and earthquake, where careful spell can protect teammates entirely. (Earthquake is heavily DM dependent. See its entry below.) Careful spell is also cheap in terms of sorcery-point cost.
Distant Spell Though this sounds powerful, there are few situations where you will need to double the range of a spell. The exception I can think of is if there are a lot of vehicles, such as a seafaring adventure, so you don't have a ton of control over your positioning. Note that cone spells, with which it would be very powerful because added range means greatly increased volume, list self for their range, making it unusable. It is cheap.
Empowered Spell This is the metamagic to have for AoE blasting, since it adds damage against any number of targets, always at the same price. It synergizes with spell bombardment, since empowered spell also delivers more damage with large dice by allowing you to reroll a greater proportion of the overall potential damage, and it gives you more opportunities to trigger spell bombardment. It's also the only metamagic you can combine with another metamagic on a single spellcast. And it's cheap. (I discuss empowered spell in much greater detail in addendum #1, at the end of the guide.)
Extended Spell Far too situational to be worth one of your precious metamagic selections. It's cheap.
Heightened Spell Has a very specific use with high-damage and instant-kill single-target spells like disintegrate and plane shift because of the all-or-nothing nature of those spells. However, this metamagic affects only a single target, only gives it disadvantage on a single save (not an automatic failure), and is expensive.
Quickened Spell Lets you do that much more on your turn, which usually means casting a cantrip with your action but could also let you dash, dodge, or disengage. The uses are many; the power is much. And it's only moderately expensive.
Subtle Spell Out of combat, subtle spell can allow you to manipulate people and events without anyone catching on that you're casting spells. In combat, it could have some use if you're into sneaking and hiding or holding things in both hands, or if you are likely to face spellcasters with counterspell. Probably more of a multiclass option that pure sorcerer. Cheap.
Twinned Spell The oft-touted capability to maintain a concentration buff on two targets instead of one is nice, if you have two appropriate targets. Can also be used to target two enemies for damage at the same time. The main drawback is that the cost scales with spell level, so it ranges from cheap to exorbitantly expensiveup to three times the sorcery-point cost of the next-priciest option.
With an outline of how wild magic works and a notion of the versatility provided by metamagic, we have nothing left to do but look at the spells themselves.
A few hasty and likely erroneous thoughts about spells.
There has been a lot of focus on dealing damage heretofore, but a successful WMS has other concerns, such as not dying (what the Germans call existenzsicherung), manipulating NPCs, and supporting allies. Thus, I have broken down each level of spell into four categories based on what they support: blastiness, slipperiness, trickiness, and helpfulness.
Acid Splash The biggest things in its favor are that it can situationally target two enemies, and that it's a Dex save. The damage, however, is unimpressive and does not scale well.
Chill Touch As a spell attack dealing necrotic damage, chill touch is generally the second-highest-damage ranged cantrip, just slightly ahead of ray of frost. It does less damage on the whole than fire bolt, about 89% of that cantrip's damage factoring in the commonness of fire-resistant and -immune monsters, but the secondary effects of preventing healing and giving undead disadvantage against youthough not commonly called into usecan swing certain battles.
Fire Bolt Good damage and scaling. Also a spell attack.
Poison Spray It appears to do great damage and scale well, but it has three hefty drawbacks. First is its extremely limited range, second is the poison-type damage, far and away the most-resisted type there is, and third is that it targets Con.
Ray of Frost Decent damage, though the secondary effect doesn't often make a big difference. Spell attack.
Shocking Grasp Sort of a way to do decent damage while still disengaging. It has a chance to miss, but advantage against metal armor means that it's not useless against most high-AC enemies. It's also your only option for a melee spell attack until you get seventh-level spells.
True Strike This has almost no use for a single-class sorcerer, who could just cast a damage spell this turn and next with the same effect as advantage (and a chance to do more damage). Might have some role for melee multiclasses still closing distance, as they could get advantage on two attacks between this and tides of chaos.
Create Bonfire (Elemental Evil) An AoE cantrip! With decent damage, no less. The area is very small, however, so it's unlikely to affect more villains than is acid splash, and then enemies can usually just walk around it. It also has the drawback of being concentration, so you can't use it without breaking any other concentration effects you have running.
Frostbite (Elemental Evil) A decent effect tied to bad damage. Because it's a Con save, the average damage is even worse than it first appears, to the point of being negligible, and the chance to apply the disadvantage effect is not great. If you are worried about the enemy attacking you specifically, you are better off taking the dodge action or casting blade ward.
Thunderclap (Elemental Evil) Another AoE cantrip, and this one is more likely to hit multiple foes . . . if you put yourself in a bad situation. Also has conceivable uses in signaling allies. Still, the damage is light.
Booming Blade (Sword Coast) The damage varies depending on what type of weapon you use, but it scales so well that this is easily the highest-damage cantrip by fifth level if you can consistently get the enemy to move after you use it. Consider combining it with misty step or a quickened shocking grasp. Even if the enemy doesn't move, the damage is respectable. Still, it's probably not worth a cantrip selection unless you've got in mind a specific build which will take advantage of it.
Green-Flame Blade (Sword Coast) In a best-case scenarioi.e., a d8 weapon, +5 spellcasting mod, and a good chance to hit in meleethis is respectably ahead of create bonfire in damage per target. More likely in actual practice, it will start out weak and scale to be decent but not outstanding at higher levels.
Lightning Lure (Sword Coast) The Str save and lightning damage type blunt the effect, so unless you're building your character around small-volume zone spells and need a way to drag enemies in, skip it.
Sword Burst (Sword Coast) This makes thunderclap obsolete. It targets a softer save ability with a slightly less-resisted damage type, resulting in it generally averaging more than 40% more damage. It also lists its range as 5 feet rather than self (5-foot radius), meaning that it can be combined with distant spell to increase its volume by something in the neighborhood of 700%. I'm not saying that I want someone to create a build to exploit this. . . . but I want someone to create a build to exploit this.
Blade Ward Gives you resistance to physical weapon attacks, which is pretty powerful in some situations. How does it compare to the dodge action? Well, if the enemy would normally hit you with 50% of attacks, dodge and blade ward offer the same reduction, 50% of the final damage. If he would hit you with 75%, dodge cuts it down to roughly 56%, dropping damage by 25%, while blade ward holds steady at 50%. 95% chance to hit is cut to a hair over 90% by dodge, a 5% damage reduction. Blade ward? 50%. Thus, when dodge breaks down against tougher enemies, blade ward shines. Unlike the more-glamorous survival spells, it's a cantrip, so it can be cast if you quicken a spell on the same turn.
Friends You would presumably use this in situations where you intend to kill or imprison the target anyway so it doesn't matter if he or she becomes hostile toward you. However, I have to wonder, if you're in that situation, how important is advantage on your Cha checks? What's to stop you from simply trying twice, which is functionally the same as advantage?
Minor Illusion Can be used in a variety of situations, from frightening bandits off with approaching hoof beats, to breaking line of sight to yourself or teammates, to blocking the path of a charging knight. (Make the horse pass the investigation check.)
Prestidigitation Can be used to create a distraction, to create an area of darkness for an ally's shadowstep, maybe flavor weapon edges with pepper so they hurt more. Its value depends on party composition a little more than minor illusion's.
Control Flames (Elemental Evil) Combines some of the uses of prestidigitation and dancing lights, though there has to be a nonmagical flame where you need it.
Dancing Lights Useful if you need to see in the dark, but most packs come with torches or candles. Underwater much? Requires concentration, to boot.
Light A little better than dancing lights simply because it doesn't require concentration and doesn't have the same range restriction. You can light a rock and drop it down the mineshaft to see how deep it is, or you can light an enemy's clothing to make it more visible . . . though that requires being close enough to touch it. Probably not worth a cantrip selection.
Mage Hand So many potential uses. Grab the key through the prison bars, snatch that magic item before the thief gets it, empty the archer's quiver, etc.
Mending Can be really useful in survival-type settings where every arrow and every waterskin counts. Most of the time, though, you can either buy replacements or repair things the old-fashioned way.
Message Could be useful for coordinating flanking attacks, evading patrols, etc.
Gust (Elemental Evil) I'm not even sure what category to put this in, since it has so few conceivable uses. Everything it does can be done better with mage hand, prestidigitation, or . . . well, do you actually need to shove anyone, ever?
Mold Earth (Elemental Evil) Handy for quick digging or distraction.
Shape Water (Elemental Evil) Seems like it could be fun in a tavern, but it's not very functional outside of hijinx.
Burning Hands Burning hands is the highest-damage AoE for the first two spell levels, but its poor scaling, limited range, and lack of secondary effects apart from burning stuff make it obsolete after that. The only spell in the book demonstrated by Natalie Portman.
Chromatic Orb Considered without tides of chaos, this will on average do slightly less damage than magic missile, but as long as you can get advantage on the attack roll, chromatic orb is better, especially if you're savvy in your choice of element. (House rule: if you choose fire, you're required to sing Disco Inferno as you launch that disco ball.) The downsides are the 50 gp start-up cost, and that its scaling doesn't keep up with the damage of higher-level spells.
Magic Missile Hits automatically, deals force damage, and has the versatility of splitting damage. The damage is on the low side, but this notionally balances it against higher-damage spells with a chance to miss. The trouble is that the damage scales badly, at least until you get spell bombardment if your DM follows the single-role approach. At that point, it competes with other single-target spells not called disintegrate. But then, at that point, you have access to disintegrate.
Ray of Sickness The poison damage type means that ray of sickness is just about the worst single-target damage spell available to us. The ability to inflict the poisoned condition is the one saving grace, but that allows a Con saving throw after you hit with the attack, so you'll only wind up applying it to about one-third of the enemies you target with this spell.
Thunderwave This does less damage than burning hands for the first two spell levels, after which other spells outdo them both. However, thunderwave hits a larger volume of space than burning hands (and at a higher volume, nyuk nyuk nyuk). But it's the secondary effect that makes it the better AoE. You can use it to create bottlenecks in doorways (or break the opponents'), steal a few easy kills by throwing pirates over gunwales and guards off walls, dismount riders, clear blocked passages, etc. The push effect is just as potent in any slot, so you don't always need to cast it with the highest one.
Witch Bolt Never really competing as a viable source of up-front damage, witch bolt tries to make up for it with its leash effect. Unfortunately, that doesn't do much damage either, doesn't scale, breaks if the target moves more than thirty feet from you, eats your action, and requires concentration.
Catapult (Elemental Evil) Comparable to chromatic orb for damage and scaling, catapult has the advantages of allowing multiple chances to impact if you throw it at a line of enemies, and not having the material cost. I have seen some interesting ideas for ways to get more use out of it: throwing bags of caltrops, flasks of acid, even jars of insects for the party druid to enlarge. It can also be used to retrieve objects. Its disadvantages compared to chromatic orb are that it's not a spell attack, and there has to be an object around for you to chuck.
Earth Tremor (Elemental Evil) I want to like this, because it seems like it should be good for protecting oneself when the villains close in. However, the chance of creating difficult terrain slows down your escape, knocking creatures prone varies widely in value depending on the situation, the spell does nothing to a creature that makes the save, and the damage is low.
Ice Knife (Elemental Evil) Good damage for a level or two, but the scaling is miserable, the range of the explosion is tiny, and it does no damage on a successful save.
Expeditious Retreat This can really help with balancing the priorities of being near the enemy and not being killed by the enemy. There are, however, competing spells for both bonus actions and concentration.
False Life The HP it provides isn't bad, so long as you're always casting it with the highest-level slot you've got. Most survival spells, however, continue to be effective when cast at their lowest level, so false life pales in comparison.
Mage Armor Outclasses any mundane light armor off the bat, surpasses at least one form of medium armor with each Dex-modifier step above +2, and caps out at the same AC as plate. Still, it costs you a spell slot or two each day. Each spell cast out of combat is one less chance for a wild-magic surge in combat.
Shield Provides a big AC increase and need only be cast after you know that an attack is going to hit. The immunity to magic missile is just icing. As a reaction, it gives you a chance to trigger a wild-magic surge on the opponent's turn. The downside is that it only lasts a round, so it can chew through spell slots fast.
Color Spray Interesting because it allows no save, but the number of targets is unpredictable, the range is limited, and the effect lasts only one round.
Charm Person Similar to the friends cantrip but so much better. Where friends lasts one minute and requires concentration, charm person lasts an hour and does not. Where friends only gives you advantage on Cha checks, charm person charms the target(s), giving you advantage in all social interactions and stopping it/them from attacking you. It's somewhat DM dependent, but you could foreseeably use this to gain access to so-and-so's secret headquarters, as a form of crowd control before a fight starts, or to get a discount on lodging or travel expenses.
Disguise Self Its only real use is sneaking past NPCs who aren't particularly observant, which doesn't really sound like a mission-critical situation to me.
Fog Cloud Has a role in blinding look-outs, concealing flankers or vehicles, and the like, but it's probably not worth using a selection on.
Silent Image Not versatile enough. Unless you're dying to be Loki, skip it.
Sleep The sleep condition is pretty powerful, to be sure, and this doesn't allow a save. The trouble is the randomness of targeting, and that allies will sometimes have lower HP than monsters, so you have to be very careful about positioning. This spell can win fights at low levels, but it breaks down pretty quickly.
Comprehend Languages Could have its uses if you are doing a lot of spying or exploring a lot of ancient ruins. In general, though, it's not worth picking up.
Detect Magic A good spell but better left to someone who can cast rituals.
Feather Fall Just too situational. You and your allies have to already be falling when you cast it, and if anyone landseven on a ledge only halfway down the cliffthe spell ends on that character immediately.
Jump Way, way too situational.
Cloud of Daggers Despite being the highest round-by-round damage concentration spell available to us at any given spell level, cloud of daggers is difficult to use effectively. Though it hits automatically, it fills only a tiny space and is easily walked around. It deals damage only when someone walks into it or starts a turn there, not when it is cast, so even if you put it right on top of enemies, there's a risk that it will do no damage if you lose concentration before their turns. If your group has a dedicated grappler or fights in a lot of narrow hallways and alleys, this can be worth the pick, but most of us can pass.
Scorching Ray Though conceptually similar to magic missile, scorching ray is mechanically very different. It's still three projectiles you can split among targets, but now each one is handled as a discrete attack. That makes the spell consistent, not a boom-or-bust prospect, and it also scales well. If you have a way to get advantage on all the rollsgreater invisibility, paralyzed or blinded opponentsscorching ray can do impressive damage. I won't say that it's in the same neighborhood as an unenhanced disintegrate, but if it climbs up on the roof, it can at least see over the fence. On the other hand, if you cannot gain repeated advantage, lightning bolt and other AoEs will do more damage to a single target than scorching ray at third through fifth spell levels, after which disintegrate becomes available. The other drawbacks are that it's fire damagerelatively often resistedand that it has very little synergy with WMS features. Though it can serve as a dump for tides of chaos, you will only get advantage on one of the attacks.
Shatter Very similar to thunderwave. The advantages of shatter are the range and forcing disadvantage against certain uncommon enemy types. The disadvantages relative to thunderwave are a less-useful secondary effect, slightly less volume of effect, and it can't be cast with a first-level slot.
Aganazzar's Scorcher (Elemental Evil) As a Dex save, this will on average do a bit more damage than thunderwave or shatter, and the line form means it's easier to target around allies. However, it will probably hit fewer enemies, and it doesn't have any secondary effects. Aganazzar's scorcher can be pretty safely replaced by lightning bolt at the next spell level.
Dust Devil (Elemental Evil) The main reason to use this would be as an ongoing choke point, stopping the villains from rushing through the gates all at once. However, the damage is only fair, and the enemy has to end its turn near the dust devil to actually take damage. It can walk through with impunity so long as it doesn't stop nearby. If the devil picks up the debris cloud, that can be a buff to your enemies with the errata change to heavily obscured areas.
Snilloc's Snowball Swarm Half the radius of shatter and one die size smaller. I don't understand why this exists, except for giggles.
Blur The effect is good, but concentration hamstrings this spell.
Gust of Wind Somehow distinct from the gust cantrip and somehow just as useless. The best part is the material component.
Levitate Can lift you above the fray to cast safely and can work as a form of crowd control . . . but only if the ceiling isn't too low.
Mirror Image Makes you very difficult to target, and even if the attacker targets an illusion, he still has to beat its AC to destroy it. Suppose an enemy has a 50% chance of hitting against your (and the illusions') AC. With three images jumping around, the assailant has a 25% chance to target you, making a 12.5% chance to hit you, an equal chance to target you and miss, and a 37.5% chance to target and miss a duplicate. Ergo, five times out of eight, you will come away from the attack still having three illusions. The other 37.5% of the time, a duplicate is destroyed, and the next attack has a 17.5% chance to hit you. 67.5% of the time, you come away still having two dupes. One left? 25% chance to be hit, 75% chance to retain your companion. At the very least, mirror image eats three attacks, but it's just daffy how many more it can divert. Under these conditions (50% chance to hit), I calculate mirror image to be worth an average of 5.09 AC over the first ten attacks (though I'm no mathematician), and it's higher in the earlier rounds, which is how you want it. The only bad thing to say about it is that it only diverts attacks, not spells without an attack roll.
Misty Step Ninja teleport, nicely on a bonus action so you don't have to quicken it. Unfortunately, the range is pretty limited, you can't go through walls (or anywhere else you can't see), and it restricts your action. It's great to have as an emergency escape, but it's not useful for much more than that.
Alter Self It's got some versatility, and I'm sure there's some build out there that really makes use of the natural weapons, but generally it's not worth the pick.
Blindness/Deafness A good effect is hampered by limited range and repeated save chances.
Crown of Madness It sounds so cool, right? But then you look at the details. The charmed humanoid must make its attack before moving, so it's difficult to target, especially since the humanoid still moves however it likes. It can only make a melee attack, and if it doesn't attack? It acts normally. You have to keep pumping your action into controlling it despite the spell consuming concentration, and the target can keep trying to save, as well. It's just plain junk.
Darkness Has functions in blinding banks of archers or spellcasters, with better range than blindness/deafness and no chance to save. However, what that ultimately means is subject to DM judgment, whether the foes simply walk out of the darkness and attack or stumble around for a while. After reading errata: I guess you would prefer to surround your own guys with darkness, which could work in a range-heavy battle and takes it out of the hands of the DM a little.
Detect Thoughts More useful in some campaigns than others, and somewhat contingent on the DM's interpretation. By and large, not the kind of thing sorcerers have room for.
Hold Person Depends to an extent on party composition, but paralysis is a very powerful condition that can end fights in a hurry. Hold person is limited to humanoids, so it's worth only as much as your campaign allows.
Invisibility Good for sneaking or making yourself really hard to hit, and, hey, advantage on one attack.
Phantasmal Force A rare chance to target intelligence, meaning your chance of succeeding will generally be high. Has some tricky applications, some crowd-control applications, a little bit of damage-dealing potential. Unfortunately, the DM's discretion plays a large role in how it performs practically, so it could range from being as good as another party member to being a slight distraction that doesn't draw a single attack.
Suggestion An easy way to generate advantage or opportunity attacks for your allies. Could also be a real shortcut for getting something out of a restricted areafind a trusted gnome, suggest that he go into his master's chamber and steal his underwear, ?, profit. The target must be able to hear and understand you, so it's very campaign dependent.
Web Can really help to keep enemies off you when you get close, and it has a large enough area that they can't just walk around. The restrained condition causes disadvantage on Dex saves, so web makes a great set-up for fireball, lightning bolt, vitriolic sphere, and the like, even disintegrate. It is a concentration spell, however, so one unlucky roll could end the fun.
Earthbind (Elemental Evil) Does nothing but pull fliers out of the air. And requires concentration.
Maximilian's Earthen Grasp (Elemental Evil) Crowd control with a bit of damage to go with it. You can even quicken the spell, grab something, and then use your action to crush on the same turn. It doesn't scale in any way, but just being able to restrain a target makes it worth considering at least until you have better things to do with your concentration.
Pyrotechnics (Elemental Evil) The AoE blindness isn't bad; the short-duration fog cloud isn't bad. It's needing to center them on an extant fire that is bad. Especially considering that most fires will be lit because it's dark, so heavy obscurity and effective blindness won't be hard to come by.
Warding Wind (Elemental Evil) Elemental evil, why your spells so bad?
Darkvision About half the races have darkvision by default, and most packs come with torches or candles anyway.
Enhance Ability Only gives advantage to one kind of check (not save), requires concentration, and the temporary HP from bear's endurance doesn't scale with level. It can be useful in a sequence where you or a teammate are repeatedly making the same kind of check, such as rock climbing with repeated Dex checks or . . . I don't know, a dinner party where you have to continually schmooze with Cha. Is your DM Jay Gatsby? How many dinner parties are you going to?
Enlarge/Reduce Both sides have a few different uses: giving the guy with all the attacks a little damage boost, making your grappler an absolute force, escaping through the tiny little hole where the goons can't follow you, carrying your gnome or halfling buddy around in your pocket. (Hey, I don't know what you're into. It's not my place to judge.) With the DM's approval, you could potentially shrink a large object into the weight range for the catapult spell, launch it, and then break concentration for added damage. The big knock against enlarge/reduce is that it just doesn't do enough by itself; conditions have to be just right, and even so it's not often the best use for concentration.
Knock Way too specific.
See Invisibility Very situational. Unless your DM has tipped you off that you're going to be fighting Predator, take a pass.
Spider Climb Sounds cool, but the practical uses are limited. Not least because it's a concentration spell, so if you try to use it as an escape in combat, you run the risk of fall damage.
Fireball Good damage for a few spell levels, but the scaling is bad, and it doesn't play especially well with WMS features. Targets Dex. Compared to lightning bolt, the large sphere of fireball makes it easier to catch a lot of enemies but harder to avoid allies.
Lightning Bolt Somewhat better damage type than fireball in terms of the commonness of resistance and immunity. Compared to that spell, lightning bolt is easier to aim without damaging allies, but it will usually affect fewer villains. This continues to have some use at fourth spell level, whereas fireball should probably be replaced with vitriolic sphere. Lightning bolt can also serve as a single-target spell, usually doing more damage than scorching ray sans repeated advantage.
Erupting Earth (Elemental Evil) There's a lot to like here. It's an AoE that targets Dex, does bludgeoning damage, and slows down opponents. It scales well enough to draw even with lightning bolt by fifth level and overtake vitriolic sphere by eighth. However, the damage is low starting out. Still, the secondary effect makes it worth casting at mid levels. (Read as written, this spell gets added damage at any slot above second. I take this to be an editorial error, since it would make the spell absolutely broken.)
Melf's Minute Meteors A bit of a tricky one to evaluate. The overall damage output for the slot is good, and it scales well, and the AoE is a nice element. On the other hand, it takes a while to launch all the meteors, giving it low per-round damage for a concentration spell, and it doesn't work particularly well with WMS features.
Conjure Lesser Demon (UA: That Old Black Magic) Because of the possibility of catching summons in wild-magic surges, WMS does not make the best conjurer, but some of the options presented in TOBM are too good to ignore. This is one of them. You summon a large number of demons in unoccupied spaces--yes, that's plural, so put them right next to all the enemies. This is a great way to tie up a crowd, and if the demons start attacking someone you don't want them to, all you have to do is break concentration to send them back to the Abyss. Manes do slightly more damage, but dretches are otherwise superior, especially if the DM lets them use their fetid cloud. Keeping a steady supply of blood may be a problem.
Blink Hanging out on another plane makes you entirely untargetable, so you can't be hit by attacks, spells of any sort, or AoE. A short bit of free movement is also nice. So far, so good. The trouble is that it makes you entirely untargetable, so no healing or buffs for you. It also doesn't absorb attacks in the same way a mirror image does; most of the attacks will simply be redirected to your allies instead, which may or may not be a good thing. Randomness is another issue; it might not trigger when you're surrounded, or it might when there's no immediate threat. The DM might also rule that teleporting to a different plane breaks your concentration. In short, blink is a very powerful effect with some considerable downsides.
Protection from Energy Difficult to use effectively on a consistent basis.
Wall of Water (Elemental Evil) Doesn't really do much, except in the rare case where you're up against a bank of archers or fire-breathers and your own guys don't mind a penalty if they try to shoot back. The difficult-terrain effect is laughable, since the wall is only a foot thick. The one possible value is that it can be frozen, so you can cast cone of cold (or the like) and simultaneously damage your foes and create a barrier which might catch some attacks.
Counterspell Or if your DM doesn't use spellcasters. Can be used as a reaction, which might trigger a wild-magic surge on the opponent's turn. You can also cast it on your own turn if you get one of the bad spell results on a surge roll. Just remember that you only get one reaction per round, and you can't cast a reaction on your turn if you cast a bonus-action spell.
Fear A strong control effect hampered by its tendency to disperse the crowd. You would prefer to keep them where you can hit them all together, and your allies might not like having to chase everything all over.
Hypnotic Pattern A lock-down AoE control spell that gets even better with careful spell. The only trouble is that it breaks if the creature takes any damage, so bad luck on a surge roll could negate the entire effect.
Major Image Has some potential uses and could be pretty powerful in the right campaignespecially with the lifted restrictions if it's cast at 6th levelbut it's not generally worth taking.
Sleet Storm AoE control that doesn't break if you cast damaging spells into the area. This is the kind of thing that works with WMS. Regrettably, the actual effects aren't all that strong, and making the area heavily obscured buffs the enemies, as does knocking them prone if your guys are trying to make ranged attacks into the area.
Slow It's the counterpart to haste, but let's run through this spell bit by bit. You can target up to six creatures, though it's not an AoE, so you don't risk affecting your own guys. The villains have to make a wisdom savea good ability to target, often a soft spot of both low-level goons and big bruisers. They become slower and easier to hit, can't react, and are limited to one action or bonus action per turn and only one attack. Even more than that, spellcasters risk losing two actions for one spell. Slow is bonkers, and all that's keeping it from gold territory is the repeated save chances.
Stinking Cloud Can eat some actions but does nothing to slow movement. Also has the problem of heavily obscuring the victims, making them harder to hit.
Clairvoyance Will only find use in certain situations which don't turn up in every campaign. You have better things to do with your picks.
Daylight How many light spells does one class need?
Dispel Magic A bit too situational on the whole.
Fly Definitely has some uses in exploring and getting around. In combat, concentration makes it a very risky play.
Gaseous Form Useful in dungeon diving and other exploration, and could be an emergency escape in combat as well.
Haste Or if you can twin and have two bruisers with big weapons. A lot of emphasis is often placed on the extra attack this can give PCs, but most of its value, for those characters not wielding two-handers, comes in defense and mobility. It doubles speed, and the extra action can be used to dash, so a PC can travel four times his usual distance and still have a normal action to attack or cast with. There's always the trouble with the lost turn after the spell ends.
Tongues Not useful often enough to justify the selection.
Water Breathing Is your DM going to roadblock your adventure with a two-hour dive? If yes, you need a new DM, not this spell.
Water Walk Sorcerer doesn't have room for neat tricks. Your spells have got to carry their weight, and not just over water.
Flame Arrows (Elemental Evil) If you have a party mate who specializes in archery, and if you're anticipating a lot of fighting in the next hour, this does good damage for the spell slot.
4th Level Otherwise known as the point where I apologize to Elemental Evil for saying that it has bad spells.
Blight It's more damage than scorching ray for a level or two, but blight doesn't scale as well and falls behind after that. If you can get repeated advantage on scorching ray, blight doesn't compare. If you know that you'll be fighting lots of plants, go for it.
Ice Storm Though the secondary effect is powerful, the damage and scaling are only middling. Erupting earth offers a similar effect with better damage, albeit in a much small space.
Wall of Fire A close reading of the spell description reveals that the Dex save is only called for when the spell is first cast; anybody entering it after that or ending a turn in the hot zone takes the full damage without a chance to save. This puts its per-round damage on par with cloud of daggers at fourth spell level, and though wall of fire does not scale as well as that spell, it remains ahead of virtually any other concentration AoE. Its downfall is the awkward form, as it is difficult to position the wall to damage any given enemy more than once. It blocks vision without actually blocking bodies, sort of the opposite of what you need if you want to truly use it as a wall. I want to say that the smart play is to use it as a carpet, but your DM might nix that. Still, in a narrow hallway, you could place it parallel to the walls such that enemies have to enter its space and walk its full length, especially good if you are able to create difficult terrain. The enemy has obvious counters, though, such as sitting back and making ranged attacks, or dashing to get through.
Storm Sphere (Elemental Evil) In the right situation, this could be pretty powerful as a bottleneck, as it creates a large-volume sphere of difficult terrain which deals damage to anyone stopping in it. It has the same problems as Melf's minute meteors, however, namely that it takes a while to deal decent damage, doesn't synch with WMS features, and requires concentration.I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. Storm Sphere is great. I honestly think that I misread both the scaling and that the single-target effect is a bonus action. The damage of each effect is never better than okay, but combined they do two things that really suit the WMS playstyle. First, storm sphere creates difficult terrain, and second, it provides a bonus-action spell attack. You can pump tides of chaos into the spell attack, which in a fourth-level slot does more damage than any ranged cantrip until they scale up at eleventh character level, and after doing that you can walk in, cast a spell on the poor blokes caught in the wind, trigger a surge, and walk out without much fear of them chasing after you. In effect, it's like getting an AoE slow, improved cantrips, and zero-sorcery-point quickened spells for a minute, all for the cost of a fourth-level slot and concentration. Storm sphere seems almost tailor made for wild-magic sorcerers, and it might push into gold territory except that there are so many good spells at this level competing for your picks and your concentration.
Vitriolic sphere (Elemental Evil) Similar to fireball in a lot of ways, including the size and targeting Dex. At fourth level, this does more damage to creatures who fail the save but less to those who pass, and that's the trend with the better AoEs at higher levels. Cone of cold, chain lightning, erupting earththey'll usually do less damage against failed saves but more against successful ones. This makes vitriolic sphere good for use with careful spell. It also scales well and hits an uncommonly resisted damage type. At the highest levels, the delayed damage gives you more chances to trigger spell bombardment. Unfortunately, it also means that the enemies will have more time to heal or to attack your guys.
Conjure Barlgura (UA: That Old Black Magic) The one demon-conjure spell that doesn't require concentration and doesn't have a material component, conjure barlgura makes a strong case for being your standby summon. It's a ten-minute wrecking ball of large size that can climb and jump. The downside is that you have no way to un-summon this one, so if an ally gets too close or the fiend outlasts the foes, you've just added a CR 5 monster to the encounter.
Conjure Shadow Demon (UA: That Old Black Magic) So, what has tons of resistances and immunities, has a fly speed, can pass through solid objects, can hide as a bonus action, and will attack your enemies as long as you have enemies in range for it to attack? If you answered a shadow demon, you probably read the name of this spell. The light sensitivity is a big limitation, but at night or in a dungeon the shadow demon is a forceand you can turn the sensitivity against it if it goes rogue. As I read the spell, you can break concentration willingly to send the demon away, provided it has not yet beaten you in a Cha contest.
Dimension Door A powerful teleport with manifold uses, though if you miss, you take a bit of damage and lose your spell slot.
Greater invisibility You (or an ally) become sneakier, much harder to hit, and advantaged on all attack rolls. Pair with scorching ray to fish for crits. With twinned spell, one of your best concentration options in nearly any fight.
Stoneskin Concentration and a big material cost for a fourth-level spell that's basically just a shareable blade ward.
Banishment A solid bit of crowd control with an uncommon Cha save. Proficiency in Cha saves becomes common around tenth level, so get the most out of banishment before that and then consider trading it.
Confusion AoE control that usually keeps the enemy in place, exactly what a WMS wants. Repeated saves are the main trouble with it. The volume of effect is also somewhat small, but it can be scaled with slot level.
Dominate Beast You can have a little fighting buddy for a while, so that's fun. The beast limitation means that it's not usually worth taking.
Polymorph Can be very powerful for debuffing opponents, even a save-or-die in some circumstances. (E.g., turn a foe into a fish, toss it in water, wait for it to swim off, end concentration.) It can also be used to buff PCs, though the players might mind being made to play animals instead of their characters. Using it to full effect requires quite a bit of meta knowledge about creature type and challenge rating, which detracts, both from an RP perspective and from a sitting-around-memorizing-the-Monster-Manual-isn't-my-idea-of-a-well-spent-afternoon perspective.
Watery Sphere (Elemental Evil) Some AoE control that lets you chase down additional victims and position them exactly where you need them. It also debuffs them and even throws them prone when it ends. The cons are the repeated saves and size limitation. I'm sorry, Elemental Evil, your spells are not bad. The spheres are very, very good.
Animate Objects Has some niche uses, such as the popular ten-dagger bandolier, and can keep foes off you and eat some attacks. However, making objects into creatures means that any AoE you cast on the area can affect them, as can some surge results. It's a riskier play for WMS than for other sorcerers.
Cloudkill There is everything wrong with this spell. It targets Con and deals poison damage, so it deals significantly less than do similar concentration AoEs like insect plague and incendiary cloud, and its area is heavily obscured. Add in that it keeps moving away from you, and its only practical use is against wave after wave marching up a narrow valley or something like that. It's another one that does no damage at the time of casting.
Cone of Cold First the bad news: the 8d8 damage and decent scaling are muted by the Con save and cold type. The average damage is a little behind lightning bolt and fireball. However, the cone form is the middle ground between the large volume of a sphere and the precision to cast between and around allies that a line provides. With a total volume more than twice that of fireball, cone of cold (along with prismatic spray) is our biggest non-sphere damage spell. That matters indoors, where you can't always place the center of a sphere far enough away to avoid hitting allies.
Insect Plague Similar to cloudkill, except insect plague scales better, creates difficult terrain, doesn't wander off, only lightly obscures its area, has more than twice the range, and deals a better type of damage. In per-round damage, it's noticeably behind cloud of daggers and wall of fire but ahead of just about any other concentration AoE until incendiary cloud comes online at eight spell level, and its sphere form makes it pretty good for throttling an enemy advance, breaking through a blockade, or clearing out a room. It's still somewhat situational, the base damage isn't great, and it's concentration.
Immolation (Elemental Evil) Accounting for saving-throw and damage types, this does about eighteen damage on the initial hit and six on each subsequent. Magic missile cast out of a fifth-level slot averages 24.4. In other words, the target has to fail three consecutive Dex saves for immolation to deal more damage than magic missile. And the spell can't be scaled up, and it's concentration.
Conjure Vrock (UA: That Old Black Magic) The rules for maintaining control of the vrock are a bit abstruse, but here's how I understand it: the gem that is consumed in the casting of the spell grants you a bonus equal to its gp value divided by twenty. Since the minimum value of the gem is 100, the minimum bonus is 5. This bonus applies to a Cha check which the DM secretly makes for you at the start of the vrock's turn. The DC of the check is 10 on the vrock's first turn (which DC, between the gem bonus and your Cha mod, you will likely succeed against automatically). The check is repeated at the start of each of the vrock's turns with the DC increasing by two each time. (Since the check is secret, your DM may not allow tides of chaos on the roll.) If you fail the roll and become de-vrocked, the fiend will sell its services to the highest bidder. After one round of inactivity, it will take commands from the creature that offers the highest-value gem. Note that this gem has no minimum value, and its value has no impact on the duration of the vrock's service, which is always 1d6 rounds before it takes bids again. Based on all that, if I planned to cast this spell regularly, I would stock up on 100-gp gems; using anything more valuable isn't worth it. That 100 gp will usually keep the vrock on your side long enough to decide a battle or get the vrock killed. If I were concerned about losing control of the vrock, I would keep a supply of the cheapest gems I could find, because seriously, who else is going to have gems on hand to bribe a demon? If you had ten 10-gp gems, they would get you 10-60 rounds of service, whereas if you spent an additional 100 gp on the starter gem, you would get +5 to your bonus on the Cha checks, which is only 2.5 rounds of improvement. Aaanyway, you're spending at least 100 gp on a vrock. Is a vrock worth it? It has a couple of nice AoE abilities, resistance to common damage types including nonmagical weapons, advantage on saves against magic, a fly speed, and decent HP and AC. It's definitely tempting, but the cost, concentration, and the risk involved probably mean that conjure vrock is not the best way to use a spell selection.
Wall of Stone This doesn't have any special synergy with WMS; it's just such a good spell on its own. Using it in combat, you can split the villains up for easier handling. Out of combat, you can cross chasms, redirect rivers, encircle your camp to prevent ambush, etc. With enough lead time, you can build castles and fortifications before an invasion.
Dominate Person Similar to dominate beast, it could be fun and useful in the right situation, and dominate person has more functionality in social settings. Ultimately, though, you're not going to be using it every day, every encounter.
Hold Monster This can keep one foe out of the fight entirely, and anything your guys are about to clobber will die fast. It does allow repeated saves, however.
Seeming Might have some RP uses, and you could maybe fool some enemies into fighting each other in combat.
Telekinesis A lot of room for creativity, but it really devours actions if you keep using it. How often it's of real use will depend a lot on your campaign.
Control Winds (Elemental Evil) The gusts effect might be the closest we ever get to a wall which blocks bodies but not sight, and it fills a large space (one-million cubic feet). It would take an opponent with a thirty-foot walking speed seven turns to cross it from edge to edge, and ten from corner to corner. And that's assuming clean terrain. That's lots of time to blast away. The other effects have some situational use, too. Still, it's a fifth-level slot and concentration and probably not functional in many indoor fights.
Creation Has little real use except ripping off NPCs.
Teleportation Circle Depends a lot on the campaign and how the DM handles transportation.
Chain Lightning Man, these high-level blasters are heaps of fun. Lots of biggish dice, all the advantages of AoE without the risk of hitting your own guys, and a Dex save. The damage doesn't scale with higher levels, but it's high enough starting out that it doesn't really need to.
Circle of Death This is our first chance at a sixty-foot-radius sphere, making it good against armies, but that's about all this spell has going for it. It's a Con save, the output is unimpressive, there's a big cost of entry, and the name says it's a circle when it's really a sphere.
Disintegrate For raw damage, disintegrate is in a league of its own (well, okay, except for meteor swarm), and it scales well and targets Dex, which is what you want for the big nasties. It does no damage whatsoever if the target passes the save, but the gamble is usually worth it. Heightened spell and bend luck can both help you land a disintegrate, though they are both expensive in sorcery points for the gains they provide.
Sunbeam The damage is only okay, but the appeal is the ability to keep throwing sunbeams and causing blindness with your action while quickening other spells. Can be worthwhile if you don't have a better use for concentration, but it would be nice if it scaled up.
Investiture of Flame (Elemental Evil) Fire and cold damage are common enough that you can expect this to save you some pain in most battles, unless your DM doesn't use spellcasters. The fire damage to any creature that gets close gives you a chance for spell bombardment on other creatures' turns, though it can also hit your guys. The final effect allows you to do some damage while still quickening other spells, though the range is short. Unfortunately, all the investitures are concentration spells that target self, so they can't be twinned.
Investiture of Ice (Elemental Evil) Similar to the flame version in terms of resistances and having a damaging action to combine with quickening. The cone is better than a line, but the damage is less. Your ability to slow enemies with the cone and then again with difficult terrain makes you a great roadblock, though the difficult terrain applies to allies too. Also has the self-targeting concentration problem.
Globe of Invulnerability If you're facing spellcasters regularly, this can be a real ace. It's not just an automatic save; it's full-blown immunity. Still, it requires a bit of foresight and consumes an action.
Investiture of Stone (Elemental Evil) Resistance to all nonmagical damage isn't bad, and being able to walk through walls allows you to play peekaboo, I shoot you. . . . not to mention cheat through nearly every dungeon ever devised. The action effect is weaker than flame's and ice's, as knocking foes prone doesn't do you a lot of good (except as a set-up for plane shift). It does make escape easier, however, and if your allies are around to bash the creeps, all the better. Has the same concentration problem as all the investitures.
Investiture of Wind (Elemental Evil) Though this can greatly decrease the damage you take in an outdoor fight against weapon-based monsters, it has little use under most roofs, and spellcasters can hit as normal. Like all investitures, this one is self-targeting concentration, and lost concentration can send you plummeting.
Eyebite A single-target control spell that gives you a few options. One effect allows repeated saves; one ends if the target runs too far away; and one ends if the target takes any damage. If the battle has enough enemies that you can keep applying effects turn after turn while quickening spells, eyebite can be worthwhile. For the most part, I would expect better out of a concentration spell and a sixth-level slot.
Mass Suggestion You can influence a large number of enemies to take off their armor, throw away their weapons, knit an afghan, whatever, with no repeat saves. Has some real uses out of combat, too. It does break on damage, so there is the risk of surges negating the effect. The major limitation is that the targets have to be able to understand you.
Arcane Gate Many of the things this can do can be done with lower-level spells. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty handy, but there are few situations where it's really necessary. Combines nicely with mass suggestion, letting you march enemies through for a 500-foot drop or a long swim.
Move Earth For most practical purposes, there isn't much you can do with this that can't be done better with wall of stone. It lets you dig up large areas quickly, though, so keep that in mind in case your DM plans an archaeological expedition.
True Seeing Depends a lot on how much your DM likes the sneaky stuff, but this will rarely be worth a pick.
Delayed Blast Fireball Hot garbage.
Finger of Death Does good damage, a bit ahead of scorching ray but still well behind disintegrate, though it still does some damage on a successful save. But that's not the real point. The real point is the fun of building yourself an army of zombies. Of course, those zombies are somewhat frail by the time you're casting seventh-level spells. You're also limited to humanoid zombies, which is kind of disappointing.
Fire Storm The ability to be shaped is the main advantage to fire storm, but its total volume is less than half that of fireball, it does less damage than that spell at seventh level, and it doesn't scale. Bear in mind that that comparison is to fireball, which isn't even an especially good spell at higher levels.
Prismatic Spray Targets Dex but does less damage than cone of cold, albeit with the chance to disable and eventually kill enemies. The main problem is that you have to roll for the effect against each target, and some of them require future rolls and record keeping. If you hit a lot of enemies, it gets to be like doing your taxes.
Conjure Hezrou (UA: That Old Black Magic) The hezrou is a little tougher and a little better offensively than the vrock and maintains the resistances and advantage on spell saves. It gives up the AoE actions and flight, however. The spell mechanics also don't allow a way to regain control once your (again, 100 gp minimum) initial investment dries up. A rogue hezrou is a bit less dangerous, since it prefers eating corpses to attacking, and it also gives up and goes home if it falls below half health. 100 gp of food might be easier to come by than a single 100-gp gem. Altogether, though, it's a bit underwhelming for a seventh-level slot.
Reverse Gravity This doesn't exactly fit with what WMS is trying to do, since it moves enemies farther away, but it's just so stupidly powerful that you have to love it. It's AoE control that only allows a save if the creature is near enough to grab a fixed object. Even then, it's left hanging. And then when the spell ends, everyone falls, so losing concentration might not be a big deal.
Etherealness Sort of a slow-motion version of dimension door.
Plane Shift The transportation side of it is very campaign dependent. The chance for an instant kill is most of the draw. Landing that requires both a successful attack roll and a Cha-save fail, so it's far from guaranteed. Tides of chaos, bend luck, and heightened spell can help with that, but that's a lot of investment. There's also a 250 gp cover charge.
Incendiary Cloud An improvement on cloudkill but not enough of one. The damage, akin to an eighth-level fireball, is enough to put it behind only cloud of daggers and wall of fire among concentration AoEs. It still has cloudkill's problems of creating a heavily obscured area and wandering off, however.
Sunburst The long-term blindness and large area are nice, but the damage is slight for a spell of this level, and the Con targeting and repeated saves mean that the blindness is not likely to run its full course.
Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting (Elemental Evil) Due to the Con save, this does on average right around as much damage as lightning bolt, fireball, and cone of cold, and its space is just a little larger than fireball's. That leaves it well behind vitriolic sphere and erupting earth at this level. The ostensible use of this spell is to cast it on areas where the enemy is fighting your undead (created by finger of death) or constructs (created by animate objects) who will be unaffected. Unfortunately, WMS has no special affinity for using those sorts of minions, and, more importantly, chain lightning will do the same job better in most cases.
Dominate Monster Like the other dominates, it can be great in the right situation.
Earthquake or Earthquake with careful spell and DM support So here's the thing. Earthquake asks for a lot of savesto avoid concentration loss, to stay upright, to dodge fissures, to evade falling rubble. The wording of careful spell is ambiguous about whether the protected creatures automatically pass only one save the spell throws at them or every save. If your DM likes the latter interpretation, earthquake is an incredibly powerful control spell. Your allies can trot with impunity from one prone enemy to the next, while the foes are falling on their butts, slipping into fissures, and being buried alive by rubble. Even if the DM doesn't like that reading, earthquake covers a large area and, between difficult terrain and proneness, really slows enemies down. It's not suited to every campaign, however.
Power Word Stun A single-target stun that allows repeated saves? Spare me. At least it's not concentration.
Meteor Swarm It's the blastiest spell there is. Even against a single target, nothing competes. Has limited use indoors, however, because where are you going to put all those meteors?
Power Word Kill Nothing with only 100 HP is such a big threat that you need to spend a ninth-level slot removing it.
Time Stop The first paragraph sounds brilliant. I want that spell. Everything goes downhill in the second. The spell is so restricted that it's hard to think of real uses for it, other than shotgunning potions or running away.
Gate Hugely dependent on the campaign.
Wish Extremely versatile and somewhat dangerous. Sounds like a WMS kind of thing. It suffers from a version of the polymorph problem, that you have to study the spell list to know every spell you might want to cast. Talk to your DM about whether you can use metamagic with any spells it clones.
Wellp, that's it for spells, so I guess we're done nowwhat? I should go through feats? Aw, come on, there are like a million of them. Your DM probably won't even let you use them. . . . Ugg, fiiine.
The agony of the feats
Many feats sound pretty fun and generally useful, but you have to consider them in light of the cost to your ability scores. I will color them for direct comparison, so that any feat worth giving up two Cha points for will be gold. Only don't hold your breath for one of those.
Alert Helps you to act earlier in the combat, which really doesn't matter much beyond the first round. Surprise prevention and protection from hiding depend on how your DM runs his or her ship.
Actor Works to your strength, a high Cha. Can be worth taking in certain campaigns if you're sitting at nineteen Cha.
Crossbow Expert The interesting thing for WMS is avoiding disadvantage on ranged attacks within five feet. This means that you can benefit from advantage for attacking a prone enemy. WMS has a few options for knocking villains prone, so this could support some builds.
Defensive Duelist At first glance this looks like it could replace the shield spell from thirteenth level on. However, the feat works only on a single attack, while the spell lasts until your turn and can trigger a wild-magic surge.
Dual Wielder Nuh-uh.
Dungeon Delver Eh. If your DM is into that stuff.
Durable Just not that good.
Elemental Adept This is only good if you already have a reason to prefer one damage type, which you don't as a WMS.
Grappler Unless you're really in love with grappling, don't. And even then, don't.
Great Weapon Master Are you nuts?
Healer I mean, I guess if you want to play medic.
Heavily Armored Keep movin'.
Heavy Armor Master Farther than this.
Inspiring Leader You've got the Cha for it, but the value of the effect depends somewhat on the number and classes of your allies.
Keen Mind Negatory.
Lightly Armored I guess if you really don't want to use a spell slot for mage armor.
Linguist Give it a miss if you don't have a pressing RP need for languages.
Lucky Pretty powerful, stacks with advantage, fits with all our luck manipulation. Doesn't even eat a reaction, unlike certain wild-magic features I could name. Note that it cannot be used on a target's save.
Mage Slayer Nein.
Magic Initiate More spells is always good, but these are restricted to low level. Still, you can borrow things that don't need to be scaled up, like mage armor or shield.
Martial Adept It's not your bag.
Medium Armor Master Nopers.
Mobile Would be better if you could avoid opportunity attacks without making the attack first.
Moderately Armored This is not the feat you're looking for.
Mounted Combatant Even if there's a lot of riding in your campaign, this isn't particularly attractive.
Observant Decent effects, nothing to write in the sky.
Polearm Master How often are you wielding a polearm?
Resilient Only if taken for Dex when you're sitting at an odd number. For anything else, it's green or lower.
Ritual Caster Gets you more spells, particularly the helpful travel and RP kinds of things that you passed over because sorcerer gets so few picks.
Savage Attacker Nawp.
Sentinel You want to be close to your enemies but not that close.
Sharpshooter You know better.
Shield Master Not so cut and dried. If you can equip a shield through a racial ability or multiclassing, this is actually kind of handy.
Skilled Your group should have most of the bases covered between class and background proficiencies.
Skulker WMS can work as a sneaky type, barring the occasional unlucky surge effect, but this feat just doesn't do enough.
Spell Sniper The big draw is ignoring partial cover. The cantrip is okay; the added range is meh.
Tavern Brawler Fun, not useful.
Tough The effect isn't spectacular, but for a class with minimal HP . . .
War Caster Advantage on concentration saves is spiffing. Casting a spell as an opportunity attack gives you a chance to trigger both spell bombardment and a wild-magic surge on an opponent's turn. Note, however, that an opportunity attack occur[s] right before the creature leaves your reach, so you will have disadvantage on any ranged spell attacks.
Weapon Master You'd have to have a pretty loony build to make this work.
Svirfneblin Magic (Elemental Evil) More spells is good.
As you can see, there is no feat worth taking prior to your having twenty Cha (except maybe actor if you're at nineteen Cha and in the right campaign). Nothing compares to the power bump you get with a +1 to your Cha mod. There are only two light blues, lucky and resilient (Dex), which you might consider as alternatives to two points of Dex and/or Con. Anything blue is likely never an optimal choice, but you can consider one if it suits your character vision. Green or lower I would think long and hard before selecting.
I have limited experience multiclassing, so I would be glad for input. I have done my best to understand the functioning of each class, at least through the first few levels, but there may be aspects which I have missed.
Barbarian A few small boosts for survivability . . . and a core feature in raging that prohibits spellcasting.
Bard The main attraction here is having a few more low-level spells that use the same spellcasting ability, especially healing word. Faerie fire and bane are also attractive for single-target damage, though they can be a challenge to use effectively. Bard can also help with skill and tool proficiencies. There are a lot of nice features in the bard class, but they do more to move you toward a bardic playstyle, rather than integrating with a WMS style.
Cleric If you started as sorcerer, a quick dip into cleric is the easiest way to get armor proficiencies up to heavy. You also get a greatly expanded spell selection, the ability to cast ritual spells, and a few cantrips. Healing word and bless are great spells available to all clerics, and the tempest domain has some strong low-level features. Though Wis is not normally a full-blown dump stat, dipping cleric makes you more multiple-attribute dependent.
Druid Druid generally doesn't multiclass well, largely because the class as a whole is built incrementally on top of a few early features which aren't by themselves all that good. Wild shape is good for exploration and as an escape in combat, but it doesn't pair well with spellcasting. Other than that, you get a few cantrips, ritual casting, a small range of spells which weren't already available to you, and a spell-slot recharge per day if you go circle of the land.
Fighter Action surge is the main attraction here, along with armor and weapon proficiencies. There is little reason to go beyond two levels in fighter, if your primary interest is being a sorcerer, though the battle master archetype does have a few maneuvers which do not rely on weapon attacks.
Monk There's some potential here, for unarmored defense and unarmored movement are both nice additions, and being able to fight decently without weapons leaves your hands free for somatic components. However, it's not a spellcasting class, so more than a few levels begins to cut into your spell slots and spells known.
Paladin The natural paring if you want to make a melee-oriented sorcerer. You are no more multiple-attribute dependent than a single-class paladin, but there is a trade-off to consider. If you start as a sorcerer, you do not get heavy-armor proficiency for multiclassing into paladin, even though you must have at least 13 Str. If you start paladin, you lose the sorcerer's proficiency in Con saves. Whichever route you go, what you get from paladin is weapon and armor proficiencies, a healing feature and evil radar, an expanded spell list including bless and healing, and divine smite, which you can pump sorcerer spell slots into for frequent burst damagethough that won't trigger wild-magic surges, obviously. If you keep going beyond level two, you get divine health, channel divinity, oath spells and features, an extra attack, and, at six paladin levels, aura of protection. It's the rare class that rewards you at almost every level, and as a half-caster, it doesn't completely stunt your spell-slot acquisition.
Ranger There's just not much here. Ranger has problems similar to druid when it comes to multiclassing, but the low-level features are even less appealing.
Rogue Cunning action is a nice feature that works as a free alternative to quickened spell on turns when you want to dash, disengage, or hide and still cast. The other low-level features are nothing to sneeze at. The swashbuckler sub-class from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide improves your initiative, and it lets you attack with sneak attack, functionally disengage, and quicken a spell all on a single turn. That requires an investment of at least three levels, though, so it significantly impedes your spell growth.
Warlock A level or two in warlock can really help to shore up single-target damage. Eldritch blast, with agonizing blast, outstrips any other cantrip for damage potential, and hex pairs beautifully with scorching ray, adding more damage even than having repeated advantage. With hex, scorching ray comes very near disintegrate for damage; if you can get hex and repeated advantage, it's the best single-target damage option short of dropping a meteor swarm on someone's head.
Wizard A single level here affords you six first-level spells, three cantrips, the ability to use a spell book to gain more spells, the ability to cast ritual spells, and a first-level-slot recharge once per day. That's not bad at all, and second level gets you two more spells and a specialization. Divination's portent ability is powerful, while evocation's spell sculpting is similar to the careful spell metamagic (though each has its advantages and disadvantages). Wizard opens up a lot of possibilities, but it comes with the added bother of maintaining a spell book and preparing spells, and it requires 13 Int, which is otherwise a dump stat.
Playing with style
All right, you've sat there patiently as I've blathered on endlessly about every aspect of the game. You have absorbed all my fancy notions about the minutiae surrounding spells and metamagic and what-have-you. But maybe you still aren't quite sure how to put it all together. In this section, I will outline some generic combat situations and illustrate the WMS approach to pacifying the opposition.
Like a player of any class, you want to make sure you have your buffs up when you anticipate combat. Long- and mid-term buffs [mage armor, investiture of X] should go up when the DM starts sending out that creepy, any-minute-now vibe, and the short-term things [mirror image, greater invisibility, haste] you should cast as close as possible to the start of combat.
Once combat begins, the general pattern is to find a use for tides of chaos, either on a save or by casting a cantrip, then use up to half your movement to get within thirty feet of enemies, cast a spell, trigger a wild-magic surge, and then use the rest of your move getting out of the foes' walk-up-and-smack-this-fool range. If you can avoid catching allies in surge range, all the better, but it's not always practical. Regardless, you want surges. Against a single target, there are two go-to approaches, the first being for lower levels and enemies with low AC and high Dex, and the second coming online at higher levels.
The slow-and-steady (but actually pretty good damage) approach You might start with a lock-down spell [Maximilian's earthen grasp, web, hold monster], and then turn to scorching ray to burn the poor sucker down. Although you can use other single-target spells [chromatic orb, blight, finger of death], scorching ray outdoes them for damage most of the time, can be a dump for tides of chaos if you don't want to cast a cantrip first, and benefits quite a lot from effects that grant you advantage on attack rolls, such as the paralyzed condition or greater invisibility on yourself. The downside of this method is that any enemy with resistance or immunity to fire damage is pretty much a brick wall.
The all-or-nothing approach As Hemlock has mentioned in the comments, the combination of heightened spell and bend luck can make a WMS very dangerous with save-or-die spells. In this variation, you use those features either by getting into melee range and trying to send the foe to another plane with plane shift, or by blasting away with disintegrate. You can use them on the disintegrate roll itself, or you can set it up by using those features to land a debuff that restrains the opponent, such as Maximilian's earthen grasp, giving it disadvantage on Dex saves, or a debuff that paralyzes or stuns, such as hold person/monster, causing it to automatically fail Dex saves. As long as the debuff holds, you can rock the opponent with disintegrate. The major drawback with this approach is the heavy investment; heightened spell takes one of your precious metamagic selections, and using both that and bend luck on a single save costs five sorcery points. In addition, although you are tilting the odds heavily in your favor, it is still a gambler's play, and you risk seeing no return on that investment.
If neither of these techniques will workif, for example, you are out of high-level spell slots and the enemy is immune to firefirst assess whether you can do the most to help by buffing your allies or creating a distraction. If there's nothing to be done in that direction, vitriolic sphere and lightning bolt are legitimate options for single-target damage, and magic missile becomes respectable after your get spell bombardment if you're playing by the single-role interpretation.
Against a group of enemies, the spells you cast will largely depend on the positioning of your allies.
Allies already intermingled with enemies You might start with a lock-down on a single target or a selective-targeting debuff/control [slow is great for this, but hypnotic pattern or confusion with careful spell works]. If you have careful spell, vitriolic sphere deals great damage without completely hosing your allies. (At 4th level, a successful save reduces v-sphere's damage by two-thirds.) Otherwise, cast line and cone spells around your guys, or fall back on your single-target strategy. Chain lightning deserves a special call-out, because it was made for this situation. If you have both slow and chain lightning, you are the king or queen of gang fights.
No allies in the way Start with something to stop the villains where they are or slow them down [confusion, watery sphere, storm sphere, erupting earth, insect plague, earthquake]. Which spell is best depends somewhat on whether and when you expect your pals to join in, and how your DM feels about careful spell with repeated saves. Once you've impeded their progress, you can unload with your biggest AoEs [cone of cold, erupting earth, vitriolic sphere, meteor swarm], remembering to move away after the spellcast. If they start getting uncomfortably close, consider dashing away and then quickening another slow-down spell. Don't worry. You got this.
Questions, Comments, Current Events?
Think I got it all wrong? Does your math show that Y is greater than X in the presence of N kobolds? The conversation has already begun in the comments, and I will respond as best I can and incorporate good ideas into the guide itself.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you found it at least a bit enlightening. Go out and show the world that wild-magic sorcerers are not to be trifled with, and, more importantly, have fun doing it!
Addendum #1 Empowered Spell, Spell Bombardment, and Large Dice
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 01:35 AM #2
Guide (Lvl 11)
This is the most entertaining guide I've read in...ever. Do more. Do them all.
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 02:51 AM #3
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
I love the flavor! You had me at St. Augustine.
Self-Silence isn't that bad. You can still cast Hypnotic Pattern and Counterspell.
On Self-Polymorph: at least you can use Tides of Chaos to remain not-a-sheep. And your point about Counterspelling it is sheer genius.
I think you underestimate Bend Luck. The worst thing about it is that it doesn't work on yourself. The best thing about it is that it works on enemy saves, and the second-best thing about it is that it is line-of-sight with no range limit, and the third-best thing about it is that you get to know the roll before you decide to interfere. An obvious use of it is to effectively add +4 to the spellcasting ability of everybody in your party--anytime a monster saves by only 1 or 2 points, use Bend Luck to make it fail. (Requires educated guess as to its saving throw bonus. Maybe the wizard can Contact Other Plane to find out the plus exactly.) Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be anything preventing multiple Wild Sorcerers from all stacking Bend Luck on the same enemy. The less-obvious use of it is to help allies. In particular, Concentration checks have a very stable DC and you can precompute with exactness when your ally might need help keeping a particular concentration spell from collapsing.
Best use for Distant spell: Distant Counterspell. Note that your enemy will not be able to Counterspell your own Counterspell unless he is also a wild sorc. May not be an issue if you're playing your wild sorc up-close-and-personal. Since my wild sorc is a paladin/wild sorc, he is up close and personal a lot and this usage is purely theorycrafting on my part. It's not good enough to persuade me to take Distant.
Last edited by Hemlock; Sunday, 20th September, 2015 at 03:21 AM.
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 05:22 AM #4
Your explanation of Blade Ward needs to be copy/pasted to each guide. For my sorcerer, I level dipped cleric and now I laugh at bards.
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 05:45 AM #5
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Um, shouldn't these "how best to build your character" threads be in the CharOp forum?
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 06:01 AM #6
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
1.) Dodge grants advantage on Dex saves.
2.) Blade Ward works only against weapon attacks, whereas Dodge works against Black Puddings, Red Dragon bite fire damage, etc.
3.) Dodge is negated by grappling/restraint, while Blade Ward is unaffected.
4.) Blade Ward halves falling damage.
5.) Dodge synergizes rather well with high AC, including the Shield spell. It reduces the number of times you need to Shield, and it often cuts damage by 70% or more.
6.) For sorlocks and wizards, Blade Ward goes better with damage-on-a-hit effects like Fire Shield and Armor of Agathys.
7.) You will make more concentration checks with Blade Ward, but the DC will be lower. Since sorcerers have Con save proficiency, they'll probably have a slightly easier time with three DC 10 checks (e.g. fail on a 1-2) than with one DC 16 check (fail on a 1-8). In this situation Blade Ward wins.
I like Blade Ward. I often take it although I have never yet been in a situation desperate enough to cast it because Dodge is usually better.
Last edited by Hemlock; Sunday, 20th September, 2015 at 06:08 AM.
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 09:33 AM #7
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
I skimmed your guide so I could have missed it, but...
Why play a Wild Mage? Is there any mechanical benefits aside from wacky role-playing to be had? Why would you give up on all those juicy features a Draconic Sorcerer gets - or an Evoker Wizard, for that matter?
What is the draw of the Wild Mage specifically?
How do you play a Wild Mage well? I would claim it is one of the hardest subclasses to do well! (Lots of players - and their DMs - haven't even reached the basic conclusion, that surges must come early and often for the class to have any charop value at all)
This must be the central issue. And, frankly, all the standard talk about races and builds and spells only serve to obscure this. (Indeed, I began this post by saying I didn't find it if it is even there...)
What I mean is that Wild Mage does almost nothing to enhance the spells that are available to every kind of Sorcerer. Meaning, most of the guide becomes a general guide on "what spells should a sorcerer choose" or even "a guide to arcane spells".
But what's the specific edge the Wild Mage subclass gives you? There's precious little "force multiplier" stuff going on.
I would claim that Wild Surges is not what you're looking for. Wild Surges is a dazzling distraction. Wild Surges is what makes you miss the point of the class.
Why? You can't build strategies around pure randomness. Your guide is splattered with color, but I would argue that any color-coded evaluation needs to see the whole picture to be truly useful. And the charop value of Wild Surges should be solidly black.
The thing Wild Mages got going for them, the only thing you gain from choosing the Wild Mage subclass (apart from randomness and all the stuff all sorcerers get) is advantage.
What every Wild Mage guide should start off with, is telling the reader it's all about the advantage.
You correctly identify how you must get your DM on board before choosing this class, and I thank you for it. But you could be much more brutally honest in that you should simply refuse to play a Wild Mage as an optimizer unless your DM is fully okay with giving you Wild Surges on every spell you cast, and the advantage you gain from that.
Also, any Wild Mage guide needs to be upfront with how few spells that you can actually use to leverage that advantage.
There are pitifully few spells where you get to make attack rolls yourself (so you can make your attacks with advantage).
Sure, getting advantage on defense and checks is nice. But could it be that the charop advice to give is "Wild Mage is currently underpowered, and you should hold off playing one until we see more spells that are directly useful to the subclass"...?
In that light, just gushing on the class' virtues is not helpful.
For instance, there are no spells with a "wild" theme. Meaning: are there any spells you would not cast as a generic sorcerer but you love to cast as a Wild Mage?
The end analysis I need to see from any Wild Mage guide is: do the subclass features (mainly getting advantage after every spell) make the subclass mechanically competitive with the alternatives (i.e. dracsorc and evokwiz)? Why... or why not?
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 04:20 PM #8
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 05:07 PM #9
Those are some good points and it is nice to see some logic based on actual game play. I have seen a WMS use Blade Ward to take hits while the party dealt with another threat. He took Blade Ward the first round and then Dodge and reacted with Shield the second round. He had to do that because he only had one spell left. He was mauled but he was well praised for taking the focus off the others for two rounds. Also, you have to see the attacker in order to Dodge. I suppose hidden foes become more attractive for a DM designing difficult encounters.
Also, I thought about Blade Ward working with falling damage and I think there is a RAW argument against it. But I would leave it in the DM's hands.
IMO, Font of Magic and Metamagic are the big bang of the Sorcerer Class. I have yet to hear of a caster dipping into sorcerer for Draconic Bloodline.
Last edited by Miladoon; Sunday, 20th September, 2015 at 05:26 PM.
Sunday, 20th September, 2015, 07:03 PM #10
Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)
This is the type of CharOp I can get behind. Enjoyable read, not finding some ridiculous power combos, and it's about one of my favourite classes in 5e to boot! Yeah, works for me.
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