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D&D 5E The (almost) no-damage wizard: tell me your favorite spells


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I've played an illusionist for more than a decade. I think I've cast color spray once. It's totally doable, but it requires creativity and an understanding that you're going to sweat on a regular basis. There's lots of situations where it would be a lot easier to toss a lightning bolt down a hallway, but once you unlock the power of the no-damage spells -- which are often quite powerful, to make up for the fact that they're not inherently deadly -- you can really wreck everyone else's world.

The key with illusions, IMO, is to make something plausible. Move the existing wall a foot forward and hide your group behind that and you've got mass invisibility at level 1, assuming everyone can stay quiet enough. Flickering torchlight (via dancing lights) coming down from the opposite corridor is a good way to make guards look the wrong direction. Filthy urchins sitting in city doorways aren't invisible -- but NPCs will look right past you when you're disguised as such, so you might as well be. And so on.
 

I should add that the last character I played for more than 2-3 sessions was a Valor Bard for Tyranny of Dragons, so most of my spells were of the Illusion/Buff/Debuff variety. Illusory walls, illusory floor spikes, illusory wall blades...lots of stuff to do with Major Image.

So far, Color Spray is an easy go-to. At level 1, it blinds a lot of creatures, and the party has a lot of damage-dealers, so even though it's only a round of ad/dis, it ain't bad.
 


Enrico Poli1

Adventurer
1.Sleep, Charm Person, Disguise Self, Shield, Mage Armor, Featherfall, Find Familiar, Comprehend Languages, Identify
2.Web, Suggestion, Invisibility, Misty Step, Knock, Darkvision
3.Major Image, Fly, Hypnotic Pattern, Dispel Magic, Counterspell
4.Banishment, Evard's Black Tentacles, Polymorph, Solid Fog, Arcane Eye
5.Animate Objects, Wall of Force
6.Mass Suggestion, Otto's Irresistible Dance
7.Forcecage, Plane Shift, Simulacrum
8.Maze, Mind Blank
9.Wish
 

AtomicPope

Explorer
I play an Enchanter a while back and it was quite effective. My most useful spell to stop Giants and their giant beasts was Banish because it targets Charisma. Cut the encounter in half and it becomes easy. Also, consider a spell list with No Concentration. I quickly ran into problems because the giants would either break my concentration or I'd have to drop one ongoing effect to cast again.

Here were my No Concentration spells:
1st - Charm Person, Shield
2nd - Blindness, Enthrall, Mirror Image
3rd - Blink
4th - Charm Monster
5th - Bestow Curse (at this level it's no Concentration), Seeming (one of the best spells in 5e)

Several of those spells I listed are defensive, and it's important to weigh your options. At higher levels you could be fighting against creatures with True Seeing so Blink becomes a better defense.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Don't sleep on sleep at higher level, btw. A lot of people stop preparing it at higher level. However, it has no save. At 8th level, it stops about 85 hps. If you can isolate a target or make sure it is the weakest in the area, it can be a finishing move that bypasses legendary resistances. I usually have it prepared while traveling over land or on other planes where flying enemies way happen more often.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
While I think the scaling section of Bestow Curse is great, and more spells in 5e could have taken a page from this, I question the viability of the spell at any level beyond very niche uses. Sure, casting it at 5th level removes concentration, but for benefits that were questionable at 3rd level, let alone 5th. It is rare you need to curse someone for 8 hours, though I suppose it can come up.

That said, I think a no or little damage wizard isn't really sub-optimal as crowd control, debuffs and buffs can really make a difference when applied properly.
 

You can also get a lot of use out of illusions of inanimate objects to control the battlefield. Heck, against an enemy spellcaster, you can use minor illusion to break line-of sight, stopping certain spells with a simple cantrip.

I'm probably going to go Illusionist, since then I can use Silent Image to create illusory monsters with sound, e.g. scare goblins off with an illusory owlbear.

Our current party composition is Barbarian, Monk, Ranger, Cleric, Wizard, and since IME Wizard single-target damage is pretty lame, relying on Grease, Slow, and Fear as my big AoE spells instead of damage might be doable.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I'm a fan of Tasha's hideous laughter, myself. It's nice for midrange encounters, where you don't want to burn your high-level slots, but it's worth spending an action and a 1st-level slot to take one opponent out of the fight for a couple rounds.

For 2nd level Blindness/Deafness is great for making 1 enemy combatant much less dangerous and easy to hit and Blur can make one of your own tanks much harder to kill. Phantasmal Force can be a great spell depending on your DM and the campaign.
Seconded on phantasmal force, and it isn't as DM-dependent as people make it out. The key is that the Investigation check to end the spell costs an action; so the target is forced to choose between "suffer [X] effect for the entire combat" and "suffer [X] and take no actions until you make your Investigation check."

As for what [X] is, even a restrictive DM would almost have to agree that "blindness" was legit, and that's a nasty debuff. If you can get other effects like restrained, even better.
 




Seems like it could be even more useful to put the fog cloud around its target.
It depends on whether you want your opponent to be able to switch to another target or not.

In any case, illusionists are arguably some of the most powerful casters in any version of D&D (well, not 4E, when they were just reskinned regular wizards) with plenty of ways to be effective with even the most illusion-hostile DMs. Unless you're fighting in a blank white cube filled with light coming from everywhere and nowhere, there's always going to be a plausible sort of obstruction you can throw up, if only for a moment. (Arterial sprays of blood, anyone?)
 

Voadam

Legend
What sort of object are you creating with Phantasmal Force to blind an enemy?

So in a prior Pathfinder 1e game I was playing a sorcerer and my friend was playing a rogue but she felt she was being ineffective dagger attacking for 1d6 sneak and then being pasted so she multiclassed into wizard and had phantasmal force. We formed Magic Club and had confabs on magical strategy. In one adventure we knew we were going into a basilisk's lair so we had a team magic consult before going in and came up with our game plan.

We came upon the chamber and got surprise on the basilisk. The hulking barbarian cleric specifically looked away to swing his power attack axe with a miss chance and missed, the DM who was a bit adversarial, grinned and said "Next." My friend's turn came up and the DM said in a bored voice, "So you run up to sneak attack with a cantrip again?" She responded "No. Phantasmal force. An illusion of an executioner's hood on its head with no eye holes." The DM looked gobsmacked, thought for a moment then said "You can do that, but it will immediately interact with it so it gets a save." I responded "Yeah, it gets one so it might see through it, but we can choose not to save." The DM's face fell and he said in a quiet voice "Oh god, that works."

Magic club high fives.

With full sight targeting the barbarian's axe and the rest of the party made quick work of it.
 

jgsugden

Legend
...Seconded on phantasmal force, and it isn't as DM-dependent as people make it out. The key is that the Investigation check to end the spell costs an action; so the target is forced to choose between "suffer [X] effect for the entire combat" and "suffer [X] and take no actions until you make your Investigation check."

As for what [X] is, even a restrictive DM would almost have to agree that "blindness" was legit, and that's a nasty debuff. If you can get other effects like restrained, even better.
I'm going to disagree on the DM dependency. There is a sort of a floor there, but as an example from a recent game, the player using phantasmal force to encapsulate an enemy in a "red hot iron cube", to block line of sight, keep them contained, and inflict damage. The DM ruled that the monster would have thrown itself against the walls to try to escape, taken damage (once) and passed right through and been freed, assuming it broke through a seam in the box. In the end, the spell did 1d6 and took up a little movement. That is not how I would have ruled it, but the dm there did and can at least somewhat say they are following the RAW. The target still believed in the phantasmal force, but was just able to get away from it and took no more damage.
 

Mistwell

Legend
Most of the best wizard spells are non-damaging spells. Damage spells tend to be suboptimal at many levels anyway.

Minor Illusion, Mage Armor, Shield, Absorb Elements, Find Familiar, Fog Cloud or Grease, Sleep, Web, Mirror Image, Blindness, Invisibility, Rope Trick, Levitate, Counterspell, Misty Step, Sleet Storm, Leomund's Tiny Hut, Fear, Hypnotic Pattern, Phantom Steed, Slow, Fly, Banishment, Dimension Door, Greater Invisibility, Polymorph, etc...
 

Dausuul

Legend
I'm going to disagree on the DM dependency. There is a sort of a floor there, but as an example from a recent game, the player using phantasmal force to encapsulate an enemy in a "red hot iron cube", to block line of sight, keep them contained, and inflict damage. The DM ruled that the monster would have thrown itself against the walls to try to escape, taken damage (once) and passed right through and been freed, assuming it broke through a seam in the box. In the end, the spell did 1d6 and took up a little movement. That is not how I would have ruled it, but the dm there did and can at least somewhat say they are following the RAW. The target still believed in the phantasmal force, but was just able to get away from it and took no more damage.
Whether phantasmal force can impose physical restraints is a point of debate. The safe plan is to make an illusion that can move and does not restrain, like a swarm of stinging insects that blocks vision and follows the victim.

A DM who is really determined to shut you down will always find an excuse--I didn't say it wasn't DM-dependent at all--but if you're trying to impose merely "blind" instead of "blind, can't move, and can't do anything," you are much less likely to provoke a usually-fair DM into looking for ways to rules-lawyer you.
 

A moving object seems a little rules-lawyery, but a 10x10 zone of hot steam that the monster's nearest neighbors are sitting in would be a straightforward way to get a lot out of the spell without having to argue corner cases.
 

I've been playing a Dwarven Divination Wizard for a few years (it's a slow campaign, we are at Level 9), and early on I decided to go non-combat. I play in a group of six, and we have a barbarian, a blasting sorcerer, a battlemaster fighter, a Circle of the Moon Druid, and a fire-heavy Cleric, so one more person lobbing damaging spells wasn't needed and would honestly have been boring for me.

Coming up with ways to add to combat has been a lot of fun! Here's my spellbook. Keep in mind some are copied for scrolls or other spellbooks, so they're not all self-selected. I've bolded the ones I usually prepare for an "average" adventuring day.

Cantrips
Control Flames
Frostbite (got to have at least one thing that damages)
Mage Hand
Minor Illusion

1st Level
Alarm (R)
Chromatic Orb (from before I became non-combaty)
Comprehend Languages (R)
Detect Magic (R)
Disguise Self
Expeditious Retreat

Find Familiar (R)
Fog Cloud
Grease
Identify (R)
Silent Image
Unseen Servant (R)

2nd Level
Arcane Lock
Detect Thoughts
Knock

Locate Object
Magic Mouth (R)
Phantasmal Force
Rope Trick
Spider Climb


3rd Level
Counterspell
Dispel Magic
Fly
Major Image

Nondetection
Protection from Energy
Sending
Slow
Tongues


4th Level
Banishment
Charm Monster
Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum

5th Level
Animate Objects
Teleportation Circle
Wall of Stone

Overall I have a lot of fun in combat, especially with illusions, but I really shine out of combat. My use of rituals, Knock spells, etc, have allowed me to do things no one else in the group can do. Since leveling up to 9th I've been leaving stone structures at each spot we rest while traveling (using Wall of Stone), and the entire campaign I've been making museums in each town using Magic Mouth.

In combat, Counterspell is always useful to have on hand, along with Dispel Magic, and non-concentration spells like Grease come up a lot. Plus being a Divination Wizard allows me to sometimes force an enemy to automatically fail a saving throw, which is amazing for spells like Charm Monster.

For Illusions, I love illusions of locks on doors, bear traps, pits, natural predators, or just doubling our Barbarian. Even if it just wastes one attack of an enemy, that's as good as using a healing spell!

I have no regrets choosing a non-combat wizard, and the rest of the group loves it too!
 

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