D&D 5E [GUIDE] Inquisitor Lim's Bladesinger and Wizard Guide: Xanathar's Edition

Hello! This is my first guide for 5E D&D, and let me tell you, I did not expect for this thing to reach 150+ pages.


This guide was inspired by NADRIGOL's Bladesinger guide. However, I disagreed with the original author on certain spell ratings and I felt that a Magical Item guide was extremely warranted. Still, check out his guide! It's really good.


This is the formal link for the guide. The latest copy, in other words.


This is the editable link for the guide. If you feel any clarifications or edits are warranted that aren't really fit for a BBPost (typo correction, item descriptions I've missed, etc.) feel free to put them in.


In addition to the formal TODO list in the guide, there are about 8 wondrous items I didn't include, a bunch of magical weapons I also didn't include, and I didn't do skills and most notably cantrips. However, everything else is at its final draft version, including spells and every other magical item. I wanted to get this out before Xanathar's dropped, because that is also going to be a beast-and-a-half to integrate.


Despite the name of the guide, I think there's plenty in here that is useful for wizards. It's just that the spell and magical item ratings are geared towards the Bladesinger class.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
Hello! This is my first guide for 5E D&D, and let me tell you, I did not expect for this thing to reach 150+ pages.


This guide was inspired by NADRIGOL's Bladesinger guide. However, I disagreed with the original author on certain spell ratings and I felt that a Magical Item guide was extremely warranted. Still, check out his guide! It's really good.


This is the formal link for the guide. The latest copy, in other words.


This is the editable link for the guide. If you feel any clarifications or edits are warranted that aren't really fit for a BBPost (typo correction, item descriptions I've missed, etc.) feel free to put them in.


In addition to the formal TODO list in the guide, there are about 8 wondrous items I didn't include, a bunch of magical weapons I also didn't include, and I didn't do skills. However, everything else is at its final draft version, including spells and every other magical item. I wanted to get this out before Xanathar's dropped, because that is also going to be a beast-and-a-half to integrate.


Despite the name of the guide, I think there's plenty in here that is useful for wizards. It's just that the spell and magical item ratings are geared towards the Bladesinger class.
Great guide. One factor I've been hoping people would look into is the proportion of a character's career an option is likely to be good for. To give an example, I think Eldritch Knights can do some impressive things at high levels, but most likely they will have endured 2/3rds of typical player experience at the table before they get there. It makes them really fun for one-offs or short campaigns generating at high-level, but can be less exciting in the context of a start-at-level-1 campaign.

I also like that you spell out your adventuring day context, and are taking magic items into account. Did I miss weapons?

For feats, I feel like Alert could be rated slightly higher due to the unpleasantness of being caught with pants down (losing initiative). I'd rate Sentinel slightly lower because unfortunately it is DM fiat not player fiat: it's value can vary greatly at different tables. I very much agree that most of your ASIs should go into ability score increases, but perhaps Warcaster could be emphasised a bit more at 12th level due to the spike in the cantrip damage at that point. I would gold rate +2 Dexterity at level 4 FWIW.

Longstrider probably adds to Flying speed, and doesn't take concentration, so it is conditionally useful. I think if you cast it first and then Haste it also gets doubled. Maybe there is Sage Advice somewhere on that? I like Blur a bit more than Mirror Image (because of the low AC of the copies, even with no concentration) but this is probably conditioned on how you choose to play (and what kind of game your DM runs).

Couldn't agree more about multiclassing. Part of the barrier is that not many other classes want Int (there could be a case that Mastermind or Arcane Trickster does, and would also benefit from Bladesong), but also it seems just bad to give up Wizard levels. Still, there can turn out to be surprises: players are alarmingly inventive.
 
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Mephista

Adventurer
There's a whole host of new spells coming for gishes coming in Xanthar's.

"Jeremy Crawford: Yes, Warlocks will have access to Danse Macabre. And again, in contrast to the fact that they do not have Animate Dead. So we also, in this book, include a number of spells that are for our characters like the Eldritch Knight and Warlocks with the Pact of the Blade and others. Spells that are about magic use in melee. Zephyr Strike is one. Shadow Blade is another, where you cast this spell and conjure forth this sword made out of shadow itself, and you can wield that in battle. And so again, there's a little bit of ... there's something for everyone when it comes to our spellcasters."

So, expect your guide to be out of date in a month!
 

GarrettKP

Explorer
I play almost exclusively Bladesinger's and I agreed with a good portion of you guide (much more than NADRIGOL's honestly).

One thing I think most people miss about the Bladesinger is even in the fluff and lore of the class, Bladesinging has always been a defensive first fighting style. And this version of the Singer really hits that mark IMO. As you point out, Shield, Absorb Elements and Song of Defense make up a trifecta of perfect defensive options that make a Bladesinger neigh untouchable outside of powerful magical effects and high level spells. A singer must worry more about running out of resources than anything else (which is why having things like a Ring of Spell Storing is a great boon).

I have an AL level 11 Singer with a slew of Magic items (thanks to DM rewards) like a Ring of Spell Storing, an Ioun Stone of Regeneration, an Instant Fortress, and a +1 Scimitar (which is his War and Song weapon). He preforms well in and out of melee combat and has done some amazing things (I still remember the time he won an encounter against 2 Fire Giant Dreadnoughts by Banishing one and making the other think he utterly annihilated his friend. Then when that Giant fled he tricked the banished one the same way XD ).

I still don't necessarily agree that a Bladesinger should stay backline (I often play in the front and have acted like a psuedo tank for poorly balanced parties before), but is a minor gripe to an overall fantastic guide!
 

There's a whole host of new spells coming for gishes coming in Xanthar's.

"Jeremy Crawford: Yes, Warlocks will have access to Danse Macabre. And again, in contrast to the fact that they do not have Animate Dead. So we also, in this book, include a number of spells that are for our characters like the Eldritch Knight and Warlocks with the Pact of the Blade and others. Spells that are about magic use in melee. Zephyr Strike is one. Shadow Blade is another, where you cast this spell and conjure forth this sword made out of shadow itself, and you can wield that in battle. And so again, there's a little bit of ... there's something for everyone when it comes to our spellcasters."

So, expect your guide to be out of date in a month!
If the new spells substantially change how the Bladesinger plays, I'll update the guide. But unless the spells provide better concentration-benefits than most wizard concentration spells, I doubt it. And if they somehow do, expect the complaints about CoDZilla and Pathfinder 2.0 to overshadow any reasoned discussion of utility. If they're NOT concentration, then they'll just complement melee interdiction with concentration area-of-effects. If they're concentration effects that aren't better at causing your party to Win The Game more than heavy-hitters like Web and Transmute Rock, then they'll just continue pushing naive optimizers towards that 'boost your melee DPR!' nonsense.

I do want to discuss an aspect of Bladesinger that gets overlooked, that of a melee interdictor that sticks close to their own ZOCs that punishes enemies for trying to escape them. I brought this up in certain spells and utility options like Watery Sphere and Sentinel, but probably an explicit section is warranted.
 

Also, in Adventurer's League it's very difficult for the Bladesinger class to get a lot of the XGtE spells. Not impossible, especially if you live in a big city, but very difficult. I think that even if the new spells end up being all that and a bag of chips for Bladesinger CoDZilla, it won't be that big of a deal in Official Play unless they're an obsessive like me and plan to level up an Evoker wizard (already at level 4!) whose sole purpose is to hoover up all of the spells.

That said, I have no idea how big of a proportion Official Games are outside of my ecosphere. I also don't know how much the game designers use the ebb and flow of Official Games for game balance. I know it was a very big deal in 4E D&D and Pathfinder, however.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I do want to discuss an aspect of Bladesinger that gets overlooked, that of a melee interdictor that sticks close to their own ZOCs that punishes enemies for trying to escape them. I brought this up in certain spells and utility options like Watery Sphere and Sentinel, but probably an explicit section is warranted.
Clearly Bladesinger with Bladesong and a buff is better at staying standing in toe-to-toe than other characters, but the issue has been rightly raised of effective damage? Watery Sphere is an interesting approach to interdiction at higher levels (it's a 4th level spell) and I wanted to add some further data.

Usually we see one-abstract-turn damage averages. These ignore resources and treat all defences equally, e.g. being attacked back with Advantage against AC 17 is treated the same as being attacked back with Disadvantage against AC 20. The point has been made that a lot of groups experience short adventuring days and I believe that is true, but how often does a combat take one turn with no attacks back? Another motivating factor is to gain broader insights: 5th edition appears to be balanced around multiple (likely an average of 4) encounters per adventuring day. Examples of where that matters is in comparing Warlock spell slot recovery with Wizard, or Barbarian Rage and Frenzy with Fighter Action Surge and Combat Superiority.

Here are estimates created using typical average damage estimates - but over a 4-encounter adventuring day - in conjunction with probability density functions to see how long a character applying that tactic stays standing. I'm using MM foes to create scenarios - they're just data points and it is easy to vary them. I'm ignoring other party members (or assuming they have their own foes to deal with). The party is stronger than the individual, but as that favours effective interdiction roles it does not worsen the argument to omit it.

Scenario 1: engaging an Orog CR 2
5th level Cleric using Spirit Guardians, Spiritual Weapon, Sacred Flame
One-abstract-turn damage = ~21
Per round 4-encounter day damage (dying in last encounter) = ~13

Scenario 2: engaging a Hill Giant CR 5
5th level Cleric using Spirit Guardians, Spiritual Weapon, Sacred Flame
One-abstract-turn damage = ~21
Per round 4-encounter day damage (dying in first encounter) = ~4

Scenario 1: engaging an Orog CR 2
5th level Bladesinger using Rapier, Booming Blade, Blur and Shield
One-abstract-turn damage = ~9
Per round 4-encounter day damage = ~9

Scenario 2: engaging a Hill Giant CR 5
5th level Bladesinger using Rapier, Booming Blade, Blur and Shield
One-abstract-turn damage = ~14
Per round 4-encounter day damage (dying in last encounter) = ~13

Scenario 1: engaging an Orog CR 2
5th level Barbarian using Greatsword, GWM, Rage and Reckless
One-abstract-turn damage = ~20
Per round 4-encounter day damage (dying in last encounter) = ~16

Scenario 2: engaging a Hill Giant CR 5
5th level Barbarian using Greatsword, GWM, Rage and Reckless
One-abstract-turn damage = ~37
Per round 4-encounter day damage (dying in third encounter) = ~19

A significant outcome is the damage curtailment that taking attacks back produces. To avoid dying, characters will be forced to change tactics. By considering resources and attacks back we see that always-Reckless, and spells like Spirit Guardians, are better balanced against other tactics than they appear on a one-abstract-turn basis. What is this good for? Some of these observations are informing. For example, against Giants melee Bladesinger is sustaining 325% of the Cleric damage and about 68% of the GWM Barbarian damage. (In Scenario 2, the Cleric is dying within one encounter.)
 
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I just got the Xanathar's Guide to Everything book. There are some good, worthwhile spells in here along with a lot of junk and reprints. However, anyone who has survived the 3E and especially 4E D&D kludge knows that you only need to have two or three good options out of thirty bad ones to be super-effective. And I think Xanathar's gives enough super-effective options to make the book worthwhile. Expect something this Sunday or so.

If you're super-impatient, you can see me updating the guide in real-time. I'm already up to 4th-level spells, but then again most of the new spells are 4th-level or higher.
 

Zene

First Post
I just got the Xanathar's Guide to Everything book. There are some good, worthwhile spells in here along with a lot of junk and reprints. However, anyone who has survived the 3E and especially 4E D&D kludge knows that you only need to have two or three good options out of thirty bad ones to be super-effective. And I think Xanathar's gives enough super-effective options to make the book worthwhile. Expect something this Sunday or so.

If you're super-impatient, you can see me updating the guide in real-time. I'm already up to 4th-level spells, but then again most of the new spells are 4th-level or higher.

Wow! You rock. Reading the guide now, but I'll definitely check back for XGE updates.
 

gyor

Legend
I just got the Xanathar's Guide to Everything book. There are some good, worthwhile spells in here along with a lot of junk and reprints. However, anyone who has survived the 3E and especially 4E D&D kludge knows that you only need to have two or three good options out of thirty bad ones to be super-effective. And I think Xanathar's gives enough super-effective options to make the book worthwhile. Expect something this Sunday or so.

If you're super-impatient, you can see me updating the guide in real-time. I'm already up to 4th-level spells, but then again most of the new spells are 4th-level or higher.

I hope you do a Q&A here on the forms for those that don't have the book yet please.
 

gyor

Legend
Reading your guide, Shadow Blade might be useful for Bladesingers, or even Eldrich Knights, but I think it's intended target is Arcane Tricksters, which is why it has the finesse, light, and thrown traits, and is an illusion spell, it's fits the Arcane Trickster to a T.

Dragon Breath seems to really be a sorceror spell that the Wizard can access as well, it fits the Dragon Bloodline Sorceror perfectly.

Illusionary Dragon fits Sorceror more then Wizard again, both Dragon Sorcerors and this time Shadow Sorcerors as the dragon is made out of shadows.

I think a clever person could in fact use mighty fortress in combat.
 

Shadow Blade is a great upgrade for Arcane Tricksters who have access to SCAG. They go from doing, say, 7d6+4 damage on a sneak attack at level 11 to a 4d8+6d6+4 damage on a sneak attack by using it with Booming Blade. I don't see it being used too often by Eldritch Knights, who will probably want to use a two-handed weapon or a ranged weapon instead. And you the Bladesinger have better concentration stuff to spend it on.

Illusory Dragon would be an awesome Sorcerer Spell. Only problem is: they don't get it on their spell list.

As for using Mighty Fortress in combat: it's not the casting time that makes it hard to use (there are ways to get around that in combat) so much as the huge, non-shrinkable area that can't get around pre-existing structures. 24 squares on a side tends to just make it too unwieldly to use on the fly.
 


gyor

Legend
Shadow Blade is a great upgrade for Arcane Tricksters who have access to SCAG. They go from doing, say, 7d6+4 damage on a sneak attack at level 11 to a 4d8+6d6+4 damage on a sneak attack by using it with Booming Blade. I don't see it being used too often by Eldritch Knights, who will probably want to use a two-handed weapon or a ranged weapon instead. And you the Bladesinger have better concentration stuff to spend it on.

Illusory Dragon would be an awesome Sorcerer Spell. Only problem is: they don't get it on their spell list.

As for using Mighty Fortress in combat: it's not the casting time that makes it hard to use (there are ways to get around that in combat) so much as the huge, non-shrinkable area that can't get around pre-existing structures. 24 squares on a side tends to just make it too unwieldly to use on the fly.

Really, oh that really sucks about Illusionary Dragon not being on the Sorceror, that seems like a big goof up.
 

I know, right? Why in the world does the Raar, I Have the Blood of Dragons class NOT have the Rar, I Summoned a Big Scary Shadow Dragon spell is beyond me.
 


Mephista

Adventurer
Shadow Blade is a great upgrade for Arcane Tricksters who have access to SCAG. They go from doing, say, 7d6+4 damage on a sneak attack at level 11 to a 4d8+6d6+4 damage on a sneak attack by using it with Booming Blade. I don't see it being used too often by Eldritch Knights, who will probably want to use a two-handed weapon or a ranged weapon instead. And you the Bladesinger have better concentration stuff to spend it on.
Shame. Concentration really seems to be killing any strong attempt to pull of a good bladesinger type. And if Shadow Blade is an illusion spell, EKs don't get it either. Heck, relying on Concentration spells in melee is tricky in the first place, which severely limits its use.

So... Shadowblade is clearly meant for Arcane Trickster. Zephyr Strike is a Ranger spell. Tenser's Transformation might have potential for a bladesinger once they hit level 11. Eldritch Knights can't get anything new from this except Sickening Radiance, which is supposed to be a GOO Warlock spell*. Interestingly, for the new War Mage subclass to be coming up, there's not a lot of abjuration or evocation spells to go along with a warmage theme.

I guess there's not as many relevant spells as promised.


*Wizards get all the goodies. Honestly, its like they don't want anyone to play a pure caster besides the wizard or cleric.
 

Shame. Concentration really seems to be killing any strong attempt to pull of a good bladesinger type. And if Shadow Blade is an illusion spell, EKs don't get it either. Heck, relying on Concentration spells in melee is tricky in the first place, which severely limits its use.

So... Shadowblade is clearly meant for Arcane Trickster. Zephyr Strike is a Ranger spell. Tenser's Transformation might have potential for a bladesinger once they hit level 11. Eldritch Knights can't get anything new from this except Sickening Radiance, which is supposed to be a GOO Warlock spell*. Interestingly, for the new War Mage subclass to be coming up, there's not a lot of abjuration or evocation spells to go along with a warmage theme.

I guess there's not as many relevant spells as promised.


*Wizards get all the goodies. Honestly, its like they don't want anyone to play a pure caster besides the wizard or cleric.

Hopefully this is the last word on the subject, but if there's one thing I want people to take away from playing Bladesinger: you still mainly cast spells like a traditional wizard. Your melee is a backup. Think of the class like you would view and Illusionist or a Necromancer. Both of those classes have features that would make spells most PCs underestimate or overlook into liquid awesomeness. For example, Creation and upcasted Major Image are kind of a 'meh' spells in most wizards' hands, but in an Illusionist's hands they become soul-crushingly good.

You are in the same category of them. Your job as a Bladesinger is to find spells that most wizards would overlook or not use to their full potential (Transmute Rock, Web, Fear, Investiture of Stone, Globe of Invulnerability, Wall of Force/Stone/Ice, multi-day Simulacrum, Anti-Magic Field, etc.) and use them to bring the pain. The Bladesinger does not have a bad offense, but slapping a Blur or a Haste onto yourself when you're not concerned about spell slots and wading into melee isn't the best use of your abilities outside of the low levels.

If you want to be a gish and do megadamage, you'd be much better off as a Sorceradin or a pure Hexblade or even a Melee Cleric.

Bladesingers got a lot of great goodies in Xanathar's. They didn't receive much if all you care about is melee Megadamage. But I have to say, I'm not particularly sympathetic to that complaint. Not counting EEPC spells, Bladesingers now get Dragon's Breath, Enemies Abound, Thunder Step, Tiny Servant, Charm Monster, Danse Macabre, Steel Wind Strike, Mental Prison, Scatter, Soul Cage, and Illusory Dragon. That's PLENTY of additional power, so long as you don't restrict the definition of 'power' to 'boring melee DPR'.
 


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