D&D 5E Are Wizards really all that?

Wizards that burn through powerful resources out of combat end up being terrible elemental archers in combat.
No they don't, because 5E Wizards, even with fewer resources than 3E Wizards (arguably more than 2E in real terms) have plenty of spells to be extremely in combat and outside combat.

Only if you blow all your resources at the beginning of the day is that an issue, which is the same for all Full Casters.

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Out of combat, wizards are comparable to martial characters (except rogues) in terms of non-magical, skill-based capabilities, but they also have access to spells that can completely transform the state of an adventure (teleportation, scrying etc.).
Yeah exactly.

If it comes down to point, this is it. Wizards get to be about as good, sometimes better, than Martials in combat (very rarely worse). That's actually kind of fine.

But then they get:

100% of the power of Martial character out of combat (arguably more because so many skills come off INT and only one comes off STR). Rogues can get a bit ahead, but nowhere near enough to be as important as the spells a Wizard can cast.


Spells that means they can do countless things better than any Martial character out of combat. Some of them are Rituals and don't even use a slot (not many, I admit). But you have slots to spare anyway, so you can completely work around entire skill-based challenges, come up with all sorts of creative solutions only magic can allow. That's kind of cool, for sure, but it's a huge design issue.

This is a totally unnecessary disparity that is 100% pure sacred beef USDA and WotC-approved. Just totally unnecessary. 4E even had the same ridiculous problem! Why doesn't a Fighter have any real, serious non-combat punch? There's no reason they couldn't have, say, eight skills, or Expertise in a couple of things (why does a Rogue or Bard get Expertise in Athletic but not bloody He-Man? Madness). No reason they couldn't have special abilities. No reason Battlemasters shouldn't get their non-combat manuevers from a separate pool to their combat ones. No reason more characters can't have Reliable Talent-type stuff - again, a bloody caster gets it (Eloquence Bard - and I admit Bards SHOULD have Reliable Talent with Persuasion), but not a Fighter, not a Barbarian, not a Ranger? A Ranger doesn't get Expertise or Reliable Talent with bloody NATURE?!?! WHY NOT!!!

I could go on. Beyond the skill system they should have neat, appropriate abilities for out of combat that spells don't just go "Pffffft" to .


Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
It’s seems to me to depend on the game.

We have mostly played tier one and two and have a lot of fights—-outside and in dungeons. Lots of action and violence.

In these games, I don’t care if the wizard is detecting magic or putting up a wall. There are plenty of opportunities for fighters to do what they do.

I wonder if many of the criticisms are from upper level play? It just hasn’t led to issues for us.

In fact, we just had a level 5 fight against enemies that were making saves. The wizard was not pleased. My very physical cleric meanwhile was kicking butt.


He Mage
A smart caster doesn't need to rely on saving throws. Force cage? No save. Wall of Force? No save. Reverse Gravity? No save. Web? Technically, there is a save, but plenty of monsters are still hosed if they make the save but are near the center of the web.

When casters are playing the same game as martials, there is reasonable parity. Unlike martials, however, they have a choice whether to play that game.
The 5e spells themselves need a revamp. 5e did a great job of removing broken spells. But there are MANY subpar spells that are strictly inferior to other spells in the same spell level.

Force Cage might be the only broken spell in 5e. In any case, it merits a rewrite to keep the unfun experiences of Fighter players in mind. The spell pretty much removes these players from gameplay, in a way that is unpleasant and nonentertaining.

Wall of Force is balanced, but it is strictly superior to the other wall spells. Probably, the other wall spells need to demote to a lower spell level where they become more competitive against the spells in the lower level. Alternatively, the wall spells get a rewrite to become more powerful so as to be more competitive versus the spells at their current level.

Fireball probably needs to reduce its damage output to be more comparable to other spell level 3 spells. It is ok if the Wizard has a class feature that augment it. Compare how the Warlock has class features to augment Eldritch Blast.

Reverse Gravity becomes available in a tier where flight by various means is normal.

In a combat encounter, "dead" is the most powerful status condition. Only the martial classes inflict this condition well.

I think Wizards are the best class. Arcane spellcasters get the best spells on the whole, and they get the most extensive and least restricted access to arcane spellcasting.

That said they are a class built around doing a series of very specific tricks, some extremely powerful, and which has a vast array of possibilities of which they still have to select certain options, with incumbent opportunity costs.

This all tends to make them look more godlike in whiteroom theorycrafting than they are in actual play. In the white room the Wizard can have a quantum spell loadout, and all combat is uncomplicated. People tend to conceptualize staying at the back line as a more ironclad defense than it is. Enemies clump up for perfect AoEs all the time.

In actual play they are pretty fragile things in a world full of perils and complications. There are many problems that they can solve with a snap of their fingers, but being prepared for them means being unprepared for something else. Combat is a complicated and messy place where often they get to drop the perfect spell, but also where often they find they have relatively little to contribute. And even the perfect spell might prove underwhelming and often can not be repeated, either due to spent resources or no longer having the right set up the next turn. They have few hit points and no self healing, and while various defense and mobility spells do a lot to keep them from taking damage, those can all burn through spell slots, as well as actions, bonus actions, and reactions, very quickly.

All and all, they are sometimes absolutely amazing, sometimes useless, and usually somewhere in between. Truly a creature built for a class-based system.

I wonder if many of the criticisms are from upper level play? It just hasn’t led to issues for us.
They are.

At lower levels, Full Casters (this isn't really just a Wizard problem, they're just The Worst) tend to be limited by their spell slots, so they can't casually use utility spells. It has to be careful and considered. At higher levels, this decreases and decreases. Wizards are the worst because they have access to the widest variety of spells which can dominate the non-combat realm. As you get to 7 and beyond the issues gradually become more evident, and by 11 or so, you've basically got into the realm where the question is usually "How many spell slots will I end the day with?" rather than "How many encounters will I be out of spell slots for?" (even by 5 you often don't blow all your slots in my experience playing nearly exclusively full casters lol).

And in combat, Wizards in 5E are better balanced than any edition except 4E, so that's worth noting. All Full Casters are decent.


Mod Squad
Staff member
The thing with saves vs attack is you can switch to a creature's weak save. You can't toggle to their weak AC.

So, this is an issue with considering spellcasters - not accounting for spell preparation.

In theory, a wizard can switch to a weak save, but that requires a few things:
1) Knowing which is the weaker save.
2) Having an appropriate spell that targets that save in your spellbook.
3) Having the spell prepared.
4) Having an appropriate spell slot available.

Which, honestly, is a pretty big stack of assumptions.

This all tends to make them look more godlike in whiteroom theorycrafting than they are in actual play.
I strongly disagree and at the risk of sounding like @Snarf Zagyg I think you need to see better Wizards played.

I also strongly disagree with your "little to contribute". They might not get a killer spell off every round, but they're not balanced around doing that. We tracked out damage for a campaign a while back, and whilst the perception was that the Barbarian and Fighter were doing the most damage, that was not the fact - indeed, my Druid was extremely close to them, and Wizard was slightly ahead. And yeah if you watched the game the Wizard often just used an attack Cantrip or whatever, but it was the rounds where he didn't that kept him comparable. We also didn't count summons properly and if we had I think he'd have been further ahead (but I didn't record well enough to be sure).

It's out of combat where the problems emerge, though. A Fighter and a Wizard have the same number of skills, but the Wizard has better stats to use skills, period, and the Wizard has tons of spells where the Fighter has... basically nothing. And it's why people keep going back to Wizards to talk about this, because they have enough diversity of spells memorized (and can change them) to where they're particularly good at causing a problem (where a Sorcerer often will just have a gimmick or two, so isn't as bad).

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