Wizard Of The Tavern

war magic

Why 5e War Magic Is So Good (How Strong Is It?)

I love wizards. There I said it. They are my absolute favorite class for both roleplay and playstyle for me. Chances are, if you are looking at this guide then you are interested in playing a wizard. Well, then might I suggest the Wizard school of war magic.

Well then, why is war magic good? The answer, the war magic wizard school is considered strong due to the ability for intense multi-class power as well as a strong straight wizard build. Sporting both decent damage capability, superb defense, and great roleplay. As a result, the war magic wizard is definitely a choice any wizard and even other classes should take a look into getting a rating of sky blue.

So, before we begin going into what makes this class so unique, let’s take a look at the abilities and just how good they are.

How Am I Evaluating The War Magic Wizard Abilities?

So, before we begin the review, we should go over what I am rating and how I get my decision. There are three things that I am reviewing in the in-depth guide. I look over how strong the subclass is in combat, how much utility it has, and, if applicable, its’ roleplay ability. This way everyone’s playstyle can be shown to fit their needs.

Now, when deciding if something is good for a guide, I look at what the subclass is trying to accomplish. Then look at how successful it succeeds in that task. For instance, in a previous article on the Bladesinger, I concluded it attempts to make you a competitive front line. I then figure out how well that ability succeeds in letting you front line, as well as how soon it comes online.

If it is accomplished at level 2 then it is early game. Level 6 it is Early-Mid, Level 10 Late-Mid, and Level 14 is late game. I rate earlier tiers better as most Dungeon and Dragons Campaigns do not go beyond level 8. Without further a due, let start this review on the war magic wizard.

Color Coding: Meaning

GOLD- “That’s gold Jerry! Gold!” If an ability is highlighted gold, then this means that this ability not only is what defines your subclasses but accomplishes it better than almost any other subclass. I rarely do Gold ratings, so definitely pay attention to them if you see me do it.

Sky Blue –If the ability is sky blue, it means that this ability is a defining trait in your subclass but for one reason or another is not game-breaking like gold.

Blue- If it is just blue, then it’s a good ability but there are plenty of other abilities that perform better. Still better to have in a subclass than other colors.

Black. Black is ok. These are your more niche abilities that have bonuses in some situations but not useful in others.

Purple  Purple is for very niche abilities. They have times when they are good, but these are rare and almost never come up. Not the best color to see for an ability. 

Red- Red is dead. It is the worse color to see on an ability. That said, no matter the color, an ability can work so don’t ignore a subclass if they have a red. Enough imagination and can-do attitude will make it okay but not optimal.

War Magic Wizard (Early Game)

The wizard school of war magic comes online in accomplishing its goal at the early level 2. Yeah, that early. So, then what do they attempt to accomplish?  Well, they attempt to accomplish a wizard with increased survivability and battlefield power to protect wizards in time of war. Which, they do quite well with their two strongest abilities being given you at level 2. 

Thus, making it a strong subclass to play since it does its job well. Then, when you consider, for a 2-level dip you get the two abilities that make the war magic wizard shine. It makes an excellent choice for those seeking to multiclass. 

War Magic: Arcane Deflection

At 2nd level, you have learned to weave your magic to fortify yourself against harm. When you are hit by an attack or you fail a saving throw, you can use your reaction to gain a +2 bonus to your AC against that attack or a +4 bonus to that saving throw. When you use this feature, you can’t cast spells other than cantrips until the end of your next turn.

There are two things to note about this ability. The first being the +2 AC and the second being +4 to saves. Both extremely useful and can save your life making this extremely useful. Now the +2 is noteworthy, but many people are unsure just how significant this ability is. As such we will take a look into how effective +2 to AC is and if the cost is worth it. 

+2 AC Statistics Test

Now in regard to the +2 AC. This is a good ability feature. Effectively increasing your survival chances from attacks by deflecting attacks. The standard assumption is reducing damage by 10%. But that is actually not true. I want to know the actual numbers behind it. As such, I took a look into the average dpr and compared it to wizards without this ability. 

To do this I used this chart that is used for creating a monster statistic on the fly. From there I took a comparison of what you would fight at level 2, level 10, and level 20 to see how effective it is. 

I also used a standard array for ac using only the spell mage armor and Dexterity. Assuming the average Dexterity of 12 and casts mage armor every day. A wizards’ AC will be at 14. This means if we assume, they fight a hard monster on average, fighting them at level 2 would have a +3 to hit, at level 10, a +8 to hit, and a +12 to hit at level 20.

I then took the monsters average dpr and divided it by the average number of attacks those monsters do. Therefore, the dpr against level 2, 10, and 20 for each attack is 11.5, 35.75, and 67.83. 

Finally, I compounded base health assuming a Con of 14 and taking the average of 3.5hp (rounded up). Creating a 14hp, 58hp, and 113 hp. Now with a base explained we can see the difference.

+2 AC Statistic Results

With the base established, I decided to compare the survivability of a +2 and how much damage is reduced. To do this I used a formula of (((21-AC+hit bonus)*DPR+ (DPR-Ability score)/20))) to calculate base damage. Then (((21-AC+hit bonus-AC boost)*DPR+ (DPR-Ability score)/20))) for dpr after arcane deflection.

Now don’t worry if you are not a formula person, I also created a chart that shows the number and percentages so you can look at that instead. It is also useful as it works for every class and AC. Just see what your ac is and you can see what the average dpr is a monster will do to you. Then to see the difference when you add arcane deflection look at the column beside it.

The results showed that at level 2, a monster with a +3 to hit against an AC 14 wizard, will reduce all damage taken at that level by 18.62%. 

Then at level 10, a monster will need to roll a 6 or higher to hit you without arcane deflection. However, with arcane deflection, they need to roll an 8 or higher to hit you and therefore will reduce damage by 12.59%  at level 10.

Finally, at level 20 still being effective by reducing damage taken against monsters with +12 to hit by 10%.

All in all, it starts off being extremely effective, reducing damage taken by almost 20%, but still is useful in later levels by reducing damage by roughly 10% for each attack. Making this part alone a fantastic ability.

+4 To Saves

Now, if you are expecting a long and complicated review into +4 saving throws, sorry I can’t do that. If you were confused by that last bit, then congratulations! You don’t need to worry about that complicated math anymore. Just remember that a +2 to AC will save you from roughly 10-18% of damage.

The truth is, saves vary far and wide depending on what is being called. It could be a concentration check for spells, a dex save from a trap, or wisdom save to being charmed. The results vary too much for me to be able to calculate exact numbers of how much that will save you. 

Therefore, just know that the general rule of thumb is that it will decrease your chances of failing a save by roughly 20%

That said, just because I can’t calculate an exact number, doesn’t mean I can’t see how useful this mechanic is. In fact, if you read other posts on this ability. Everyone raves that this is the best part of arcane deflection. The reason being is, saves have a far wider application than AC. A classic example is using haste on your fighter. Failing to make that concentration check results in your front line becoming immobilized allowing for them to gang up on your front line or swarm to get you. 

Another example is to save against spells like fireball. A spell that, on average, deals 28 points of damage. If you save, however, you would only take on average 14. 

Therefore, to see how effective this is, just think of any save that can be called on. Then think how good you are at it, then add +4 to that. Guaranteed to be useful more times than not.

Arcane Deflection- Costs And Solutions

Now with all this raving about the ability, you would think I would give this a gold rating. Sadly, arcane deflection can come with some heavy costs that prevent it from being gold. The two costs are using your reaction, and being only able to cast cantrips the next turn.

Using your reaction is a huge cost for anyone. It prevents you from being able to cast other reaction-based spells like counterspell. Moreover, war magic has a 6th level ability that requires you to use counterspell to replenish your abilities. Thus creating competition in its own subclass.

There is sadly no easy way around this cost. Most of the time it will not interfere as spells are not often a variable to account for in battle. So it isn’t a usual concern, but when it does come up requires your judgment.

The second downside is only able to cast cantrips with war magic’s arcane deflection. A wizard’s biggest resource is spell casting so cutting that off can be debilitating for a wizard.

Now there are ways to reduce the impact of the limit. The first way is set up. Notice, it says you cannot “cast” spells beside cantrips. Therefore, spells like Sunbeam make the point moot as you don’t recast that spell to use it again. Allowing you to consistently deal high damage with spells and not cantrips.

The second way is to build a character that uses cantrips. An example of this would be a wizard who uses Booming Blade. Your main attack is already a cantrip thus getting rid of the cost, while arcane deflection increases your survivability. 

And there are many more options I haven’t even stated. So why the cost prevents it from the gold rating, it in no way makes this a terrible ability.

War Magic: Tactical Wit

Starting at 2nd level, your keen ability to assess tactical situations allows you to act quickly in battle. You can give yourself a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your Intelligence modifier.

If you thought that was all you got at 2nd level, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, this is personally my favorite ability from the war magic school. The reason being is Treantmonk’s Wizard Guide established the role a wizard plays in dnd. And I have fully committed to playing wizards that way and fell in love with the playstyle. 

If you don’t want to read it, don’t worry as I will give you a summary. Basically, Treantmonk said the wizard is best to be used for controlling the field with spells and not for dealing damage. Hence, the best way to control the field is going before everyone else. This now lets you use your primary stat and one of your other stats to increase your chances of going first. Thus stopping big bads before they can attack, or boosting your allies to rain damage on your enemies. 

Therefore, why Tactical Wit might not seem like much. There is nothing more essential for wizards than moving before your opponents. Making this a fantastic ability.

War Magic: Power Surge

Starting at 6th level, you can store magical energy within yourself to later empower your damaging spells.

You can store a maximum number of power surges equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of one). Whenever you finish a long rest, your number of power surges resets to one. Whenever you successfully end a spell with Dispel Magic or Counterspell, you gain one power surge, as you steal magic from the spell you foiled. If you end a short rest with no power surges, you gain one power surge.

Once per turn when you deal damage to a creature or object with a wizard spell, you can spend one power surge to deal extra force damage to that target. The extra damage equals half your wizard level.

From wonderful to okay. Adding more damage is great. But at level 6, you only deal 3 more points of damage every short rest. Now you might be thinking, “But what about extra charges?” Well, let’s take a look at how often that happens. 

Fighting another caster is definitely options in battle, yet many battle encounters do not have enemy spellcasters. Therefore why it will come in handy, it will often be useless for you. 

The second problem is sometimes you cannot cast counterspell. For instance, at 6th level, you have three 3rd level spells. But say in a previous encounter you used all third-level spells. Well, now you have no counterspell slots. So you cannot even use counterspell if you wanted too.

Moreover, war magic’s power surge only works on singular targets according to wizard of the coast. Thus limiting the damage to single targets only and making it less optimal.

The conclusion, there are many things that hinder this from being incredibly strong with low extra damage making it okay at best.

best wizard spell 5e

War Magic: Durable Magic

Beginning at 10th level, the magic you channel helps ward off harm. While you maintain concentration on a spell, you have a +2 bonus to AC and all saving throws.

The defensive boosts are something else for war magic. Note this can stack with arcane deflection. Therefore if you cast Sunbeam, you can have a +2 AC and then add another +2 AC every turn and still do 6d8 damage every turn. So let’s take a look at how good this at tenth and 20th level for a war magic wizard.

If you still have a 14 AC with mage armor and dexterity, you now add an additional 2 when concentrating. Therefore, we will work off of the assumption you have an AC of 16 since we already know adding 2 to your ac will decrease damage by 12.59%. 

Looking at the chart I made, at level 10 when you can apply both Durable Magic and Arcane Deflection, you decrease damage taken by 14.40% chance and 11.16% chance at 20.

Not as large as most are expecting with a +2 AC, but this also is useful as you now do not have to worry about using arcane deflection as much. Meaning you have to pay the costs that much less.

Meanwhile, you also gain an additional +2 to saves. Meaning you can have an additional +6 to all saves you make. A fun use is to cast Suggestion on your ally and concentrate on it for 8 hours. Have that +2 bonus all the time until you cast another concentration spell. Note, ask your DM before to prevent hard feelings.

In the end, Durable Magic allows you to not have to pay the costs for arcane deflection nearly as much, making this a great add-on.

War Magic: Deflecting Shroud

At 14th level, your Arcane Deflection becomes infused with deadly magic. When you use your Arcane Deflection feature, you can cause magical energy to arc from you. Up to three creatures of your choice within 60 feet of you each take force damage equal to half your wizard level.

This makes your core ability even better. No way am I going to not give it a decent rating. At level 14, you will deal 21 points of damage and block attacks or pass saves that the enemy wanted you to fail. Really adds insult to injury making this a nice boost for the wart magic school. 

It also uses the least resisted damage type in the game, force damage, and is not limited to every short rest like power surge. 

This said  the damage is not that extreme. Especially when you consider spells like finger of death that deal 7d8+30 damage. But for cantrip builds, this is something incredibly strong since your primary damage source already comes from your cantrips.

All in all, Deflecting shroud is a nice addition to war magic school as it reduces the cost of using your reaction and limiting yourself to cantrips by adding extra damage against your opponents. A good ability but for a 14th level a little underwhelming in all honesty.

Fighter class 5e

War Magic And Multiclass

Now usually, I would wrap this up with a summary by this point. However, there is another point that makes the war magic subclass so good. Multiclass Potential. Now I talked about this stuff briefly in my brief guide on multiclass abilities.  But I’m going to elaborate some more on why this is a strong multiclass option. 

The first reason is that the two strongest abilities for the class come on at level 2. Now when multiclassing, the more levels you have to dip into other classes to gain benefits, the later your build will come online. That is why most multiclass suggestions are 1 to three levels max. 

The second reason is what else you gain for multiclassing into wizards, ritual spells, wizard spells, and increased utility. This greatly enhances your options for battle and roleplay as you now gain additional resources that are useful in numerous situations.

Finally, you have the abilities themselves. The abilities for war magic are universal in application and can boost anyone’s survivability in combat. Have a warlock with low AC?  Go two levels into Wizard and gain more spellcasting as well as a boost to saves and AC. Want to be a barbarian wizard? THen dip two levels into wizard choose war magic subclass and gain a bonus to initiative and +4 to saves. Then choose outside of combat wizard spells and be more than just a tank. 

The options for multiclassing are as limited as your ability scores and your creativity. Since it provides numerous benefits of coming online early and universal application for all classes. If you have gotten some ideas then I suggest reading this forum going over several different war magic multiclass ideas that I greatly enjoy.


And now we reached the conclusion. Hopefully, you have found this guide incredibly useful with the AC damage mitigation chart I included for you all to use not just for this class but other classes as well. Moreover how early the war magic subclass comes online makes this extremely viable for any character. Hence pushing it to the front of the line for both capabilities and play. 
In all honesty, it reminds me of the bladesinger who also attempts to provide a front line edge for wizards. But where the bladesinger was limited to being viable for certain builds, war magic is viable for all builds. Let me know what you think and be sure to check out my other reviews such as the forge cleric or ranger beastmaster. As always, have a phenomenal day!

  • P.S. Now that you know the general information for the war magic wizard. Why don’t you kick it up a notch with Wizard’s Mastery: A Complete Wizard’s Guide! Giving you even more information then than this for all ten wizard subclasses with ways to make your gameplay more memorable and more unique. Check it out today!
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