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(This question is a comparison to 3.x, though things might have been different in 4e)

In 3.5e there is a large power and capability gap between fighters and wizards that fighters couldn't hope to close, even in their nominal area of excellence. Is this problem still around?

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Is there a distinction you're drawing between "5e Basic" and "5e"? (I'm wondering what purpose the word "basic serves in the post title.) – nitsua60 Dec 28 '15 at 20:40
@nitsua60 This question was asked just after the release of the 5e Basic. The Basic in the title shows that this comparison uses only the basic set, not anything that was release after it. – Mourdos Dec 30 '15 at 11:15
ok--I wasn't active at that time, so wasn't aware of the distinction. (I'd heard the "next" keyword banging around, but not "basic.") I think the answers read as good analysis of 5e proper--I'll leave it to you to decide whether the title would benefit from "updating." – nitsua60 Dec 30 '15 at 13:47
up vote 29 down vote accepted

Short Answer:
Basic Evocation Wizards are now the equivalent of Tier 3 at lower levels.
Basic Champion Fighters are now the equivalent of Tier 3 at lower levels.

The Usefulness of Tiers will have to change for 5e, as tiers 1, 5, and 6 at this time don't exist, and likely won't exist as the overall power of 5e is much flatter.

For overall power however, it's going to really depend on level.

Chart of Damage Per Adventure Day Thanks to the work by @Waxeagle we can see how power via damage shifts over level.

Basically at level 11, the Fighter is doing more damage than the evocation wizard who is focused solely on damage. However, by level 17, both the cleric and the Wizard have enough spell slots, to out perform the Fighter and Rogue. In addition, level 9 spells are by their nature "game changers". It should be noted that at level 20, with the third extra attack, the fighter shoots up in power as well, though not enough to out perform spells such as meteor storm, the nuclear weapon of D&D. One caveate to the current graph is that not all levels are shown, only the level when the "adventure tier" changes. For example, not shown on the graph is level 10, where the fighter still only has one extra attack, the wizard and cleric are doing about the same amount as the fighter.

So while it is still the case at the highest levels that magic is more powerful than the mundane, up until the epic tier, this problem does not really present itself.

This obviously doesn't take into account the non-damaging effects of spells, such as haste, or invisibility, or flying, etc. However, with the new concentration mechanic, these spells are situational and can not be easily piled on top of each other as they could in 3rd edition, to create a quadratic power curve.

Relevant data for the chart:
The above chart is based on the various classes an unlimited number of enemies with the following defenses, and no assumption is made about the HP of the monster, so damage is "unbounded" in the terms of the spreadsheet:
Dex Save 2
AC 15
Con Save 2

However, If I change the defences of the monsters to something less reasonable in the game, such as giving a Dex and Con save of 5 and an AC of 10, we see the fighter keeping up with the wizard and again surpassing it at level 20.

enter image description here

You can compare these 5e graphs, to this 3.5 graph and notice how the fighter is at the bottom of the graph and stays very linear, while the wizard has a slight a quadradic curve in power gains.

enter image description here (Graph taken from here)

Old Long Answer about Tiers:

First, the assertion that a Wizard might be tier 1:

Tier 1: Capable of doing absolutely everything, often better than classes that specialize in that thing. Often capable of solving encounters with a single mechanical ability and little thought from the player. Has world changing powers at high levels. These guys, if played well, can break a campaign and can be very hard to challenge without extreme DM fiat, especially if Tier 3s and below are in the party.

It's pretty clear that currently, the Evocation Wizard can not do absolutely everything. Because of the concentration mechanic, the Wizard can really only do one cool thing at a time. You can't fly and be invisible at the same time without another magic item or wizard casting those spells on you, for example. Secondly, while some spells can duplicate other class abilities, such as "knock", those spells are only situationally better, and come at a high resource spot (limited spell slots) that other classes lack. So the Wizard is no longer a tier 1 class.

Instead, I would say that Tier 3 fits the Evocation Wizard.

Tier 3: Capable of doing one thing quite well, while still being useful when that one thing is inappropriate, or capable of doing all things, but not as well as classes that specialize in that area. Occasionally has a mechanical ability that can solve an encounter, but this is relatively rare and easy to deal with. Challenging such a character takes some thought from the DM, but isn't too difficult. Will outshine any Tier 5s in the party much of the time.

The bolded part is why I believe a Wizard is Tier 3. A wizard can, if picked the right spells, do anything another class can do (with some exceptions), but it can't do those things as well as the class that specializes in that thing. An invisible wizard is hidden, but can't sneak. A wizard with damage spells, can't kill, a single high hitpoint target as well as a fighter can. A Rogue will have better skill abilities when it specializes in those skills than a wizard can ever get.

Next the assertion that a fighter is tier 5.

Tier 5 is defined by:

Tier 5: Capable of doing only one thing, and not necessarily all that well, or so unfocused that they have trouble mastering anything, and in many types of encounters the character cannot contribute. In some cases, can do one thing very well, but that one thing is very often not needed. Has trouble shining in any encounter unless the rest of the party is weak in that situation and the encounter matches their strengths. DMs may have to work to avoid the player feeling that their character is worthless unless the entire party is Tier 4 and below. Characters in this tier will often feel like one trick ponies if they do well, or just feel like they have no tricks at all if they build the class poorly.

No class is good at only one thing. Because of the Background system, all classes and characters are able to focus on skills that are outside of their class. So while you can make a fighter that is only good at fighting, and can't do anything during exploration or social interactions, it's also more likely to build a fighter that is good at fighting and leading people. Or good at fighting and using certain tools. Because of bounded Accuracy, all characters are decent at whatever skill they are proficient in. The champion fighter is best built for two handed heavy weapons, but they can also be a good archer, or duelist. Fighters excel in combat and at higher levels, can move across the battle field, hitting multiple creatures in one turn in the same way that a wizard might target more than one creature with a spell. They are also able to survive situations that others would not without a cleric. So I don't think they can be called Tier 5.

Champion fighters are however tier 3, because they are

Capable of doing one thing quite well, while still being useful when that one thing is inappropriate.

Fighters do combat really well, they survive well and can kill well. However sometimes a situation will be called where there is no combat. Fighters can excel at jumping across chasms, or climbing/swimming out of tough spots more so than wizards and clerics. With Background again, they can also call upon their traits. In the starter set for example, the Fighter is a folk hero, who is able to rally others to their cause.

However, the tier system as a whole is a bad way to judge D&D 5e classes. The power level of the entire system has been made "more flat", and there will need to be better definitions of how to compare classes.

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I think your answer overall is quite good, but I find your TLDR really confusing. Referencing the old tier system that doesn't apply (by your own reckoning) is misleading and confusing. – C. Ross Jul 28 '14 at 14:37
I think, in practice, you'll find this comparison on damage unrealistically pessimistic about fighters. I expect fighters will do quite a bit more damage because D&D isn't a solo game and because it's easier and more productive to buff a fighter than it is to buff (say) a wizard. Also, the linked sheet doesn't take into account items, and while it's clear items will be less of a focus in 5e, there have been mentions of magic weapons; so I suspect there will be at least some items. Again, historically, I'd expect those to generally benefit the fighter, not the wizard. – Eamon Nerbonne Sep 22 '14 at 6:04
What is DPAD? A brief explanation of what it is and how it is computed/simulated would be helpful. Just looking at the linked spreadsheet doesn't really give any overview. – PurpleVermont Mar 9 '15 at 23:21

Yes, fundamentally the problem still exists is 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, but with some changes.

At low levels, especially level 1, the wizard does not have the previous disadvantage of being able to cast just one or two spells and then being useless for the day. He now has "cantrips" that work like 4E at-will spells and deal up to 1d10 damage, usable every round. His level 1 spells (two per day at level 1 plus an option to regain by a short rest) are significantly more powerful than in previous editions, for example burning hands now deals 3d6 to multiple enemies, half on saving throw. Magic missile has no attack roll nor saving throw and deals 3d4+3, and you can split those three missiles among multiple enemies. The level 1 fighter in comparison, taking the starter set characters as example, has an attack bonus about the same as the wizard for spells that use attack bonuses, and deals 1d12+3 damage. So in a typical level 1 combat where the wizard casts one level 1 spell plus cantrips, and the fighter uses his weapon attack all the time, the overall damage output is going to be about equal.

From that base the "quadratic wizard" issue still happens: With every level the wizard gets more spells, and every two levels he gets more powerful spells in addition to that. Also he can cast his lower level spells using higher level spell slots for greater effect. He can potentially deal a lot more overall damage than the fighter if you consider that for example the 8d6 fireball isn't just hitting one monster, while the fighter is limited to single-target attacks in the basic rules. More importantly, all those spells give the wizard tons of options, also in out-of-combat situations with spells like invisibility or fly.

The fighter is a bit less "linear" than he was in previous editions. He gets more bonuses by leveling up, gaining extra actions or attacks, faster ability score improvements (which can be spent on feats, as yet not described), martial archetype features, and saving throw rerolls. What he doesn't gain, at least not in the basic rules, is a more options. He can hit multiple times, and really hard, but other than attacking with his weapon or dodging his options are very limited. Potentially the new feats will improve that situation, but they aren't in the basic rules yet.

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It's not just the feats, the archtypes for the fighter and rogue will improve this. But yeah, right now, the wizard and cleric gets tons of toys as they grow up, the fighter (and rogue too), simply get to use their L1 toys more. – wax eagle Jul 27 '14 at 19:59

The difference is still there, but not as huge as before.

The progression of Wizards was smoothed out quite a lot, and Fighters were upgraded.


They became more flexible, but weaker in damage at the same time.
Tier 4 on levels 1-4
Tier 3 on levels 5-10
Tier 1 above

In 3.5 and earlier if you memorized Magic Missile and Burning Hands, you could cast both once per day. Now you can also cast one of them twice, and the other not at all. For a cast that was too versatile to begin with, I would not call this progress. Because of this versatility however there is no point of talking about an Evocation wizard any more. At most half of your spells need to be damaging, so you can still fly and teleport and solve any other problem.

Earlier if you were level 10 instead of 5, you not only got more Fireballs, but they were stronger as well. This made Wizards Quadratic. Now this is handled, quite well actually. Your level does not matter when you cast a damaging spell, but you can cast it in a higher level slot for more damage. So either your Fireballs are more numerous or stronger. I like this one.


They are as boring as ever, one attack identical to the next, but at least a bow Fighter is mostly viable now. Still the two-weapon fighter is the most damaging option on low levels. I have played about 20 characters in Adnd and DnD3, but never reached level 9.
Tier 4 on level 1-10
Tier 2 above

Every fighter gets a second attack on level 5, 11 and 20, but even that is still not enough to keep up with a Wizard.

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two weapon fighter only does more damage at early levels, by 20 great weapon fighter does almost twice as much damage as TWF. – Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 22 '14 at 12:30
See this question… – Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 22 '14 at 12:31
Why do you say the fighter is not keeping up with the Wizard? At level 20 the fighter does 47 damage on average every round, and the wizard can only do that much damage once a day. – GMNoob Jul 22 '14 at 12:36
The question is no longer about tiers, just the fighter/wizard power difference – doppelgreener Jul 26 '14 at 12:27
@Andras This answer might benefit from briefly elaborating on the fact the Wizard is also powerful because they can do all the things (got a problem? there's a spell for it), the fighters cannot, and this same situation has been maintained. The fighters solve problems well when those problems involve hitting things really hard -- but there's a spell for that too! – doppelgreener Jan 28 '15 at 10:56

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