D&D 5e Sorcerers vs. Wizards: What’s The Difference?

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The difference between Sorcerers and Wizards is the difference between raw instinct and practiced comprehension.

Though both classes are intensely magic focused, canonically they’ve come into their powers in different ways. And they utilize their arcanic gifts in dramatically different fashions.

Generally speaking, Sorcerers are your battle mages.

They have class skills and spell lists that can seriously up the hurt you dish out, and generally help your survivability in combat. The Draconic Bloodline’s Draconic Resilience feels like something out of the Barbarian or Fighter class, and there’s no reason it should be paired to such a potent caster.

On the other hand, Wizards are masters of crowd control.

With a massively expanded spell list and the ability to ritual cast, a Wizard’s magic is infinitely more comprehensive than a Sorcerer’s.

Although magically unparalleled, Wizards are (unfortunately) about as resilient as a wet tissue, with no great class skills to help on the defensive.

In short, it’s the difference between a Barbarian’s explosive rage, and a Monk’s careful execution.

We’ll go over why that is, the specifics and drawbacks of each class, and my picks for how to best maximize your caster’s potential in 5e.

Sorcerers Are Charisma Casters: What Does That Mean?

Short answer: a lot.

Long answer: it gives us greater insight into what Wizards of the Coast were thinking as they designed Sorcerers, and how they were intended to play.

If WotC just wanted was a more damage-focused spellcaster, they would have chosen to just give the Wizards another subclass.

Instead they chose to make Sorcerers their own class. And that means a lot.

Most notably, their spellcasting modifier differs. And that makes a world of a difference in-game.

Wizards cast through their Intelligence. In D&D this is connected to Insight, History, and Arcana skills. They manipulate magic. They pull on the strings of the Weave, the great magical substance that connects the many planes, with a practiced precision.

This is shown mostly through their massively expanded choices of subclasses, allowing for greater specificity and diversification.

The schools of magic differ, but each fundamentally changes the way you interface with magic, with schools specializing in skills ranging from illusory to necromantic, and everything in between.

Sorcerers, however, cast through Charisma.

They plead, command, and coerce magic out of their surroundings. But since they cast through Charisma, understanding the magic they wield is not a prerequisite to wielding it.

And this sentiment is the great difference.

Sorcerers do not have the clarity of Wizards. But what they lack in accuracy, they make up for in a fundamental understanding of magic.

Metamagic allows them to subtly change the blueprint of a spell as they cast it, doing so silently, or quicker, or with greater range; whatever the situation calls for.

But that’s the struggle with Sorcerers. Because their class relies on instinct more than forethought, many of the spells that require delicacy while casting are blocked almost by virtue of how they cast.

Wizards have access to, on average, 19.6 new spells on a level up.

But Sorcerers only get about 11.7.

Overall, Wizards have access to almost 80 more spells than Sorcerers, most of them being incredibly potent Illusion and Arcane magic.

In this way Sorcerers miss out on some of the best spells in the game. Simulacrum, which lets you create fully fleshed out solid Illusions capable of surviving intense scrutiny and physical analysis(and probably the best multi-use spell in the game) cannot be cast by Sorcerers.

Wizards and Sorcerers go back and forth like this. The Wizard’s greater understanding comes from greater power and variety, but they are more rigid.

Sorcerers have more freedom in casting, but most of the more complex and layered spells are beyond their understanding.

So Why Would Anyone Play a Sorcerer?

When you look at the raw spellcasting, the debate can feel pretty one sided.

And it’s important to recognize that Wizards are the best spellcasters in the game, but that’s pretty much all they’re good at.

Wizards are supreme in late game. Their extensive spell list make them almost unrivaled. A prepared 20th level Wizard is nigh undefeatable.

However they are much, much weaker early game. And their primary casting stat is pretty much only useful for magic.

Sorcerers have the supreme advantage of Charisma, which opens the door for Sorcerers to hold many other rolls in the party.

Wizards are Wizards, but Sorcerers can be leaders. Or the party face, or negotiators, or any number of a hundred different things. No build suffers from a higher charisma.

Couple that with the fact that Sorcerers get many of their best abilities at Level 3(with Metamagic and Font of Sorcery which both give you vastly more adaptability when you cast), and you get possibly the most synergetic multiclass possible.

Designing Powerful Sorcerers

It’s frankly a little ridiculous how well everything meshes together & really fills out the holes in some of the other class’ game plans.

One of my favorites is the Monk X Sorcerer 3, with “X” being whatever level you happen to be at. Ideally you’d multiclass at Monk 3, then after you get to Sorcerer 3 keep pumping levels into Monk.

The Monk’s biggest flaw early game is probably the lack of ways to do damage. Sure if you punch something it works great, but any situation where a direct hit isn’t necessarily the solution (i.e, flying builds, high ac builds, mounted builds, mobs, etc.) Monks can struggle.

So give Monks the skills to talk their way out of more situations, and the spells to deal with everything else.

Now you have an incredibly potent build.

It also doesn’t hurt that at level 2 a Tabaxi Monk 1 Sorcerer 1 (with a Dex of 17, and a Con of 14) would have an AC of 16 and 18 HP.

This is the same build that could know Burning Hands and Magic Missile, and can deal 1d6+3+1d4+3 melee damage in a turn, repeatedly.

At Level 2.

That’s the thing about Wizards and Sorcerers: they’re inverses.

Pros & Cons Of Each Class

D&D 5e does this really brilliant thing as it incorporates strengths into classes, it makes sure that every strength is taken to its logical extreme as a way to balance it.

Wizards are probably the best known: potent casters that disregard the physical world to focus on magic, and as a result end up with the constitution of a timid mouse.

It’s a bit easier to understand in a Pros/Cons so let’s dive into a quick summary (and a convenient way to summarize this whole comparison)

WIZARDS:

Pro: Incredibly potent magic
Con: Because of this they often neglect the physical
Pro: Intense knowledge of magical workings, but
Con: They often lack the ability to see outside of that, if something doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work
Pro: Detailed knowledge of their class and magic,
Con: They’re not exactly generalists, and D&D is a pretty chaotic game
Pro: Spells that can deal with pretty much anything!
Con: If they don’t have a spell for it, they don’t have a tool for it.
Pro: They get access to so many spells!
Con: They can only prep and realistically use so many a day.

SORCERERS:

Con: A worse cognitive grasp on magic, but
Pro: that lets them react instinctively
Con: They have a limited spell list, but
Pro: they get most of the good ones, and you’ll know your spells better
Con: Less subclasses
Pro: Full flight at level 14? Wild magic? More potent abilities
Con: Large gap in between potent skills
Pro: Makes multiclassing a really easy choice
Con: Their Spellcasting modifier isn’t useful for magic skills
Pro: Charisma is incredibly useful for every other aspect of the game.

What’s The Better Class?

This really depends on what kind of game your DM intends to play.

But as a solo class I think the answer is inarguably the Wizard.

Outside of combat, the Sorcerer’s limited spell list really starts to hurt its practicality.

The difficulty with endorsing a Sorcerer build is that with almost every situation that would warrant a Sorcerer, I would prefer a Wizard doing that same job.

An intrigue and political subterfuge based campaign? Sure, a Sorcerer’s Charisma would be a great asset. But a Wizard’s ability to summon with spells like Find Familiar (which Sorcerers don’t have access to) would yield information impossible to gain any other way.

A dungeon romp full of dangerous monsters?

Even though the Sorcerer is definitely more combat-oriented, a Wizard’s access to low level spells like Grease(which can completely shut off whole angles of attack) and Tasha’ Hideous Laughter(which can completely shut down an enemy) make Wizards such a terrifying force that even on a team with a Sorcerer, I would still want a Wizard.

In my opinion, Sorcerers fall into the same boat as Rangers.

They can make phenomenal additives to other classes to smooth out some of their weaker points. But on their own, they just don’t have enough going on for me to endorse a solo build into the higher levels.

This is by no means me saying that Sorcerers are unviable.

Magic, though not as good as past editions, is still one of the most versatile tools you can have in your character’s arsenal in D&D 5e.

Plus there are some character ideas you just can’t express through a Wizard.

The terrified tiefling novice who’s barely in control of his powers… that doesn’t mesh well with the Wizard archetype. If you’re determined to start as a Sorcerer, I fully encourage it. But maybe try making it a character arc.

Maybe as that tiefling levels up and gains greater control over his powers, perhaps conveniently at level 3 as you gain access to the Sorcerer’s best skills, he transitions into more of a Wizard role and gets the best of both worlds.

Though you would lose out on the Wizard’s 18th and 20th level class skills, I honestly think Sorcerer 3 Wizard X (with “X” being really any level) offers some of the best class-propelled character growth you can have in D&D.

And it gets my full seal of support.

At the end of the day, Dungeons and Dragons is a game about extremes.

If that means your character is a Sorcerer, then they’re a Sorcerer.

Much of D&D’s fun comes from the ability to play character concepts outside of who you are. And many times that means playing something suboptimal, as long as it’s a fulfilling experience.

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