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5E [GUIDE] Playing Dice with the Universe: A Slant Guide to Wild-Magic Sorcerer

CapnZapp

Legend
For this thesis question, I'll give you three answers, starting with the one I think you are least likely to accept.
1) Dungeons and Dragons is a role-playing game. Role-playing opportunities are mechanical benefits.
Well, you don't need my acceptance. I just think for a charop guide this answer is... beside the issue?

Sure wild surges have roleplaying potential, but isn't the purpose of charop guides to help players see past that, in order to see what mechanical advantages there is and what obstacles you need to be aware of...

Meaning your guide is a good read, but is it helpful? Gushing about various options is great when you're already made your choice and want someone to reaffirm how great that choice was, but it doesn't help you understand what, if any, minmaxing opportunities that are buried under all that wild and whacky magic...

What I would like to discuss, and have your guide discuss, is what image best characterizes the optimal Wild Mage.

I would argue the random fireworks generator isn't it. In fact, of all classes in the PHB, the Wild Mage is the subclass whose power potential is the hardest to see, in my opinion. Including the fact you have to expect and then dispel some fairly common DM notions ("allowing Wild Surges one time out of every three spells is generous, right?") even before you roll up your character.

Instead I believe the shooting scorching rays with always-on advantage is the true charop image to strive for. Which then leads to the important "sadly there aren't any level 3 or level 5 scorchers, still wanna play?"

I'd be happy to be proved wrong; at least it would mean my posts started a discussion.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
I'm not familiar enough with evocation wizard to make that comparison, but as far as dragon sorc . . . I think that there is a common pitfall with the min/maxing mindset where people think that as long as they have fiddly little decisions to make for easily calcuated marginal gains, they're maximizing their output. Thus, they look at the elemental affinity sub-class feature, see it as an opportunity to optimize, and think that that makes it a good feature. My thinking is that elemental affinity pales in comparison to spell bombardment, because the former can only apply to spells of one type, with a limited pool of types. This leads to dragon sorcerers choosing spells by damage type, effectively maximizing one of the sorcerer class's greatest weaknesses, the limited spell selection. With spell bombardment, the WMS prefers spells with lots of large dice, spells with multiple opportunities to trigger spell bombardment, and AoE spells which multiply the added damage over many targets. The range of spells which play nicely with spell bombardment is much greater than for any draconic type, leading to fewer sub-optimal decisions made in the name of optimization.
Perhaps, but...
It's just a damn shame we get spell bombardment so late.
This. Spell Bombardment should not influence your choice of class, just like any other end-game ability.

For the other dragon perks, a little bit of HP and welfare armor are nice but not game-changing; no-concentration slow flight is great outside but of limited use indoors; and the dragon aura is powerful against a horde but comes at a big cost. Compare that to wild-magic surges (again, strongly combat positive on the whole and even better with controlled chaos); and tides of chaos and bend luck, both of which have a direct combat effect and can be used offensively or defensively. I honestly do not understand where the supposed big disparity between the two sub-classes is. . . . assuming the DM plays along with WMS.
Effectively getting a d8 instead of a d6 is huge. It must be, even a fighter doesn't get more than a d10.

"Welfare armor" Tell that to the AC 10 Wild Mage... Every point of AC is a big deal in this edition and you know it.

Flight is HUGE. Sorry, but you are in denial if you can't see this.

Wild magic is simply too situational to get those fantastic ratings. Most things you rate highly would deserve their ratings if you got to choose them when you need them. But you don't.

Let's say Fireball is the best attack spell in the game. But a random Fireball is not golden, barely even black. What use is a Fireball when you can't use it?

Surges are, from the charop perspective, simply something you endure to get real power. Its usefulness is probably not more than purple, to be honest. But since we like playing Wild Mages (or we wouldn't be having this conversation) let's rate it black, plain and simple.

The only WMS class feature I see that I can understand and use consistently is Tides of Chaos. I would love to see a discussion on whether it can justify not going draconic that is cold and clinic and isn't enamored with Wild Surges.

Because I suspect the Wild Mage can't support a minmaxed build. Not at this time; more support to leverage its few true advantages is needed.

What I don't want is for this discussion to devolve into you defending the class. I just want more from a class guide than you selling the class.

But I think I'm done crashing your party. Best of luck!
 

Flight is HUGE. Sorry, but you are in denial if you can't see this.

Flight is one way to kite, but so is a horse, and so is Expeditious Retreat (esp. with Longstrider from a druid/wizard/bard). If you're blaster-focused like the OP's wild sorc seems to be, Expeditious Retreat might work about as well as Flight for keeping you out of melee.

Another alternative to flight is a simple wall of minions (Animate Object).

Flight is not nothing but it's not that huge either. It protects you against about the same things that Spike Growth does.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
This is the most entertaining guide I've read in...ever. Do more. Do them all.

I agree Wormwood! This is my kind of CharOp! Running a Forest Gnome Wild Sorcerer and this guide is a great help for maximizing my enjoyment of the class.
 

I kind of felt like you had this great insight into how to best exploit Spell Bombardment and maybe got carried away with generalizing it to lower levels where the insight doesn't apply.

Thanks for the feedback. You and CapnZapp have definitely convinced me that I need to rewrite a few sections to be more explicit about my thought process. My concern at lower levels is largely maximizing the effects of wild-magic surges through positioning and having AoE spells to multiply the strongest effects on the table. The emphasis on AoEs leads to a strong preference for empowered spell, which happens to be very similar to spell bombardment in terms of preferring larger dice.

In other words, I see the sub-class tending in that direction well before level eighteen.

CapnZapp said:
Well, you don't need my acceptance. I just think for a charop guide this answer is... beside the issue?

The point was that optimization is subjective and depends heavily on how you conceive of the game you are optimizing for. I am very forthright that one of the goals of the guide is maximizing fun.

Instead I believe the shooting scorching rays with always-on advantage is the true charop image to strive for. Which then leads to the important "sadly there aren't any level 3 or level 5 scorchers, still wanna play?"

I love scorching ray. It's a powerful spell that scales really well. In fact, I would wager that it is among the spells most mentioned by name throughout the guide. Still, tides of chaos grants advantage on only one of its attack rolls. Once cantrips scale up at level five, you get more for your advantage by using it on a fire bolt and then quickening a scorching ray . . . and triggering a surge. That's really my view of the ideal WMS playstyle, added to good positioning to maximize the value of the surge.

Don't hold your breath for a damage-dealing ranged spell attack above second level. I believe that their absence is by design, because of the chance to crit.

This. Spell Bombardment should not influence your choice of class, just like any other end-game ability.

This is probably my opportunity to point out that the two best draconic features come at high levels, while the top wild-magic feature, tides of chaos, is available from the word "go". Beyond that, you asked for a side-by-side comparison, and I gave it to you, starting with the most direct "force multiplier" to "force multiplier". We can dicker about diction--I call flight "great"; you say it's "huge"--but the features remain what they are. I'm not looking to defend the wild-magic sub-class, because I don't see it needing to be defended. Which is better is a matter of player preferences.

Surges are, from the charop perspective, simply something you endure to get real power.

Plain and simple, we disagree on this point.

I would love to see a discussion on whether it can justify not going draconic that is cold and clinic and isn't enamored with Wild Surges.

It's not that I'm enamored with wild surges and can't look at the situation clinically. I simply think that you undervalue them as a source of damage and survivability. The entire min/maxing process is one of generalizing randomness, of making it seem not random. From that perspective, the surge table is intimidating, because it is nigh on impossible to approach computationally. However, that does not mean that the surge table cannot be generalized at all. And when we generalize it, we find that it is positive on the whole, becomes more so as we gain control over it, and becomes even more so when we pick spells and position our PCs to maximize the effects of the good results and minimize the bad. Min/maxing of wild-magic surges is very possible, but the extremity of the randomness denies us the comfortable illusion of certainty which we normally get from min/maxing. Thus, with respect, I think that the argument that it's too random is made from a position of discomfort, not of clinical detachment.

But I think I'm done crashing your party. Best of luck!

I appreciate the civil discourse, and, as I say, I am already planning revisions based on your thoughts. Come back anytime.

OB1 said:
Running a Forest Gnome Wild Sorcerer

The best kind there is! Glad you find it helpful.
 

Miladoon

First Post
OP, this guide is spot on. Charop is not just moar damage. It can be about AC, or maxing hit points. Yes, it can even be about fun. Which we all can agree is subjective.

While you are changing things, take a look at the grappler's guide and then maybe look at Strength again.

LINK

The sorcerer was ranked low as a grappler but I think otherwise.

Bull's Strength
Quicken Spell Magic Missile - Grapple (Tides of Chaos) - Shield Reaction/Counterspell Reaction
Quicken Spell Blade Ward - Whatever Spell (Hold Person, Thunderwave, etc.) - Shield/Counterspell Reaction



A True Wild Mage would not hesitate. Especially if they win initiative.

A WIP with a Mountain Dwarf Gladiator.

EDIT: Counterspell also comes with its own ability check, which means...Tides of Chaos! Yes, we can predict using a bonus, an action, and a reaction in one turn.
 
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OB1

Jedi Master
The sorcerer was ranked low as a grappler but I think otherwise.

I do as well. Enlarge is also great for grappling (especially when you are a Forest Gnome) and can be twinned to give another character that bonus d4 as well (Which I do with our party's Goliath Barbarian or Dragonborn Monk). I took Tavern Brawler for my 4th level ASI and have been having a blast with the combo. The fact that our DM allows purchase of one use magic items (in this case potions of Hill Giant Strength) helps out tremendously with this.

Also have a question for the OP. I've been considering taking a Warlord Fey Pact level or two once I reach 5th for character flavor reasons (Drixel Habblepox is a bit obsessed with finding fortune, glory and fame and doesn't think it is happening fast enough). I figure Eldrich Blast will work wonderfully with ToC. Do you have any other suggestions on Cantrips and Spells exclusive to the Warlock but that would work nicely with a WMS that you would recommend?
 

Thanks for the feedback. You and CapnZapp have definitely convinced me that I need to rewrite a few sections to be more explicit about my thought process. My concern at lower levels is largely maximizing the effects of wild-magic surges through positioning and having AoE spells to multiply the strongest effects on the table. The emphasis on AoEs leads to a strong preference for empowered spell, which happens to be very similar to spell bombardment in terms of preferring larger dice.

This may be a tangent, but Empowered spell's preference for larger dice is very mild, if I am doing my analysis correctly. Max(d4, d4) is 25.2% greater than d4, whereas max(d12, d12) is 30.6% greater than d12. You could ignore the die size effect entirely and just think of Empower Spell as a 25% increase in damage, and never notice the difference. It's probably better to just select spells for high mean damage, good damage time, area of effect size, and scaling rather than worrying about the effect of die size on Empowerment.

Hmm, on second thought I think max is the wrong way to think about empowerment.
 

Point heard, Hemlock, though I think that people tend to oversimplify the calculation of empowered spell. I don't want to get into that at the moment, as I'm on my way to work, but I will throw out that a mean by itself does not summarize a set of outcomes. Consider the difference between 3d6 and 1d20. They have the same mean but very different standard deviations. I would be interested to hear which spells you think I under- or overvalue on the basis of die size.

Miladoon, I will look more closely at grappling when I have the time. Gut reaction is that sorcerer makes a better support for a grappler than a grappler itself, since nothing inherent in the class benefits from high strength.

OB1, I am not very familiar with warlock, and I might miss some of the finer points of multiclassing as well, but here's my best effort. Eldritch blast is definitely a go-to cantrip, and the invocation adding damage to it is grand. (I also like the mage-armor invocation, since it frees up one spell selection and a slot or two each day.) The only other cantrip available to warlock which isn't on the sorcerer list is magic stone from EE, and I don't see it being much use, though that might depend on party composition. For spells, both faerie fire and hex can make a great combination with scorching ray. Faerie fire helps allies but can be hard to target if your guys have already engaged the enemy. Hex raises scorching ray's damage to the level of disintegrate in the same spell slot, and you can keep moving the hex between targets all day. None of the rest of the first-level spells strike me as more than average. At second spell level, I think enthrall is the only non-sorc spell. It has some interesting potential but would depend on the campaign.

If you're only thinking of taking a couple of levels in warlock, I see it really helping with single-target damage, one of the weaker suits of WMS. Sounds like a good dip to take.
 

MiketheMountain

First Post
Beautifully done guide! I just MC'd my Tome Warlock into Wild Sorcerer, and we're having a blast! Fortunately I've got a great DM and party who all love a little chaos thrown into the mix. Thanks for putting this together!
 

You're welcome, Mike, and thanks for the kind words!

For everyone who's interested, I just found the time to add in and format the last few sections of the guide. There is still work to be done on multiclassing and the things we have already talked about in the comments, but the shape of the guide is now more or less in place.
 


Darkwing Duck

First Post
You can't build strategies around pure randomness.

When it comes right down to it,

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder said:
No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy

Strategy, in this context is a battle plan, and talk about strategy is a distraction. What is needed is _tactics_ and the heart of tactics is all about thinking fast on one's feet. The appropriate argument for Wild Mages comes in two parts, a.) Does Wild Magic inject enough chaos into a combat to overwhelm the GM (and, therefore, the ability for the enemy to respond appropriately? b.) Does fighting beside a Wild Mage give the PCs enough experience to respond appropriately when the plan goes sideways? At the core, this is all about training the players to have their PCs turn on a dime and take advantage of the fact that there are more players' minds sitting at the table than there are GMs' minds. That's the appropriate argument. The response to that argument is uncertain.
 

mellored

Explorer
Re: potted plant: You can't take bonus actions while incapacitated.
"anything that deprives you of your ability to take actions also prevents you from taking a bonus action." PHB 189

Also seems excessively colorful. Though that's probably fitting.

Otherwise i agree with the assessments.
 
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Thanks for the correction, mellored. I'll touch up the guide this weekend, if I can find time.

DW, I'm not going to say that you're wrong, but that strikes me as a very realpolitik conception of the game. I prefer to collaborate with the DM to create a story, even as PCs are fighting monsters and/or NPCs, rather than antagonize the DM him- or herself.
 

Darkwing Duck

First Post
DW, I'm not going to say that you're wrong, but that strikes me as a very realpolitik conception of the game. I prefer to collaborate with the DM to create a story, even as PCs are fighting monsters and/or NPCs, rather than antagonize the DM him- or herself.


That's a reasonable position to take and is my default position. However,
I feel that, as a "roleplaying game," there are times to emphasize the "roleplaying" and other times to emphasize the "game".
As a "game," there are times when I enjoy matching wits with the GM, just as I would enjoy matching wits with the person (who is in the role of the GM) in poker, chess, etc. I don't view that as antagonistic because we're all sitting around collaborating to have fun even when we are in a battle of wits.
One of the fun things about being a DM is setting problems in front of a party and watching them figure out a solution you never expected and maintaining their personas while they did it. Mind you, my GM has been working professionally in military intelligence for decades. He's also a published (as in "by a publishing company" (Del Rey, if I remember correctly), not self-published) novelist and a die hard military history buff. His wife (who runs a PC) has a degree in theater. Also, we play only once a month and he takes advantage of that time to set up each session. Matching wits with him (while approaching the problem as my character), while scrambling to work as a team, is a joy.
 
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Philoponus

First Post
Hi Cognomen,

Thank you so much for this guide. My only experience with DnD has been Pathfinder, and while numbers on variables on numbers appeals to a certain part of my brain, I'm very attracted to 5e for roleplaying purposes due to the streamlined ruleset and the porous boundary between RPing and game mechanics. I was immediately drawn toward the WMS, and your guide has provided the perfect reference. It's good that you emphasize FUN as the true parameter to be optimized, and given that I have a very good relationship with my DM and the rest of my group, I think we're all going to really enjoy having my WMS in the party.

One minor option that might be worth noting in your guide:

If you choose to play a human WMS (as I have for RP purposes) with the variant traits, picking Magic Initiate as your free feat with the Warlock spell list provides you with Eldritch Blast and a once-per-rest Hex. You also get one other cantrip from a list highly overlapping with the Sorcerer's, giving you wiggle room if you want to choose cantrips with utility/RP value (I *insist* on having Control Flames); I went with Blade Ward.

Thanks again.
 

choryukami

First Post
Here is my entire opinion of Wild Magic - Loads of fun. I have a paladin/sorcerer and I realized that the extra AC would be useless and the extra hp is ok but underwhelming and most the dragon abilities just aren't interesting enough. And I wanted Tides of Chaos to use on my melee attacks and risk wild surging in melee range with baddies. I've had a few lucky break with this like dealing necrotic and lightning damage to everyone around me and confusing the enemies. Having lots of slots mixes well with paladin, who can smite much better with them. Funny thing is this guy is a Dragonborn, but he's a Wild Magic Sorcerer and not a Dragon Sorcerer. Other than that Sorc and Pal mix really well, since I can Quicken Fireball then use a full attack, or Quickened Haste, run 60 ft and do three attacks. God help them if I get quickened spells for a minute.
 

mellored

Explorer
Because I suspect the Wild Mage can't support a minmaxed build. Not at this time; more support to leverage its few true advantages is needed.

Wild Mage is difficult to mix/max own, but you can defiantly min/max it with the party.

Surges are, from the charop perspective, simply something you endure to get real power.
Disagree.

Surges are extremely powerful, but very difficult to use. They're free spells that cost no action to cast, and come with advantage. It's just their random nature that makes them difficult to utilize. It's kinda like optimizing crits, except they are actually worth it.

To maximize the upside, you want to roll as many spells as possible, use your free advantage as much as possible, and be in melee since most spells are centered on you.

To minimize the downside, you need to survive in melee, and saves against your own spells. Favor Dex/Con more then Cha, Resilent Dex, Inspiring Leader, MC for armor, be a dwarf for armor, or gnome for saves, ect...

Also there's a lot of party op.
Paladin with sentinel does adds to your safety and saves.
Life clerics keeps anyone alive.
Ranged attackers (fighter/ranger/warlock) won't be in your spell range.
Lore bards can use both cutting words and inspire you to save.


The only major downside is the surge is DM dependent.
 

ScuroNotte

Explorer
Sure, obviously it's not free, but it's not that expensive either. Think of it like giving everyone in your party +5 on their casting stat (+2.5 DC) in exchange for 1 sorcery point per four spells they cast (more precisely, for every four targets they cast a spell on). The reason it's cheap is because you get to see the die roll before you decide to Bend Luck. Say your buddy casts Hold Monster with DC 16 and you believe the enemy has Wisdom +5. Obviously if the enemy rolls a 1 or a 5 you're not going to use it; if he rolls a 18 or 19 he beats the spell DC already; but if he rolls a 12 or 13 he is on the edge of making his save, so you Bend Luck, and it is like your buddy had DC 18-19 all along. It's a capability which you don't pay for unless you use it.


I think Bend Luck would have been better if it scaled with Sorcerer levels
 

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