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My understanding is that when a spell is known or prepared via one of your class features, or if you cast it via a class feature, it's considered a "class spell" (sorcerer spell, cleric spell, etc.) for you. If you cast it via some method outside your class (items, etc.), it isn't considered a spell from your class.

For clarity, some class features care about whether or not a spell is a 'class' spell (emphasis mine):

  • Wild Magic Surge for Wild Magic sorcerers can only trigger "[...] immediately after you cast a sorcerer spell [...]".

  • Overchannel for School of Evocation wizards can only be used "when you cast a wizard spell [...]"

  • Empowered Evocation for School of Evocation wizards can also only be used on "[...] any wizard evocation spell you cast".

  • Rod of the pact keeper gives a bonus "[...] to the saving throw DCs of your warlock spells".

Contrast with a feature like Blessed Healer for Life Domain clerics that just use the language of "When you cast a spell [...]", and you'll see why I believe there's an important distinction as to whether or not a spell instance is a 'class' spell.

However, comments on this answer made me question where my understanding of what makes a spell instance a 'class' spell comes from, and I'm not sure of a concise spot that explains it. What are the rules that govern what is or is not considered a class spell when cast?

Of particular concern is whether or not a spell is, in all instances, a class spell once you've obtained it from your class. For example, if you were a wizard that had magic missile both prepared and in your spellbook, would any instance of magic missile you cast be considered a wizard spell, even if it was cast by way of, say, a wand of magic missile?

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A spell is considered a Class Spell if it's listed in the class' spell list

While not explicitly defined this way, there is evidence of it being implied:

Domain Spells

[...] If you have a domain spell that doesn't appear on the cleric spell list, the spell is nonetheless a cleric spell for you.

Circle Spells

[...] If you gain access to a spell that doesn't appear on the druid spell list, the spell is nonetheless a druid spell for you.

With how the above features are worded, you may infer that any spell that is not on the class' spell list in PHB 207-211, is not a class spell, because the only way to add a spell to your class spell list is through similar features as above. And that, through inversion, any spell in a class' spell list is a class spell.


Jeremy Crawford weighs in with a tweet here:

A class's spell list is the list of that class's spells. #DnD

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The common understanding is that if the source of the spell is a class feature (Spell Casting, Domain, Pact Patron, etc.), it is a class spell. But looking at the books, let's see what we find.

Common RAW Wording in the PHB

Typically this language appears when talking about learning spells rather than casting them. Like in Eldritch Knights' or Arcane Tricksters' class feature uses the two phrases interchangeably.

When you reach 3rd level, you augment your martial prowess with the ability to cast spells. See chapter 10 for the general rules of spellcasting and chapter 11 for the wizard spell list.

Cantrips. You learn two cantrips of your choice from the wizard spell list. You learn an additional wizard cantrip of your choice at 10th leveI.

Followed by:

The Spells Known column of the Eldritch Knight Spellcasting table shows when you learn more wizard spells of 1st level or higher.

Multiclassing

When multiclassing you are supposed to keep track of which spell list they are from to know which spell casting stats to use, and there you run into questions about when is it "Wizard Spell" or "Ranger Spell" -- but that too is short hand for "spell you know from the Spell Casting feature from the Wizard Spell List".

For the spellcasting feature it is easy:

You determine what spells you know and can prepare for each class individually, as if you were a single-classed member of that class. ... Each spell you know and prepare is associated with one of your classes and you use the spellcasting ability of that class when you cast the spell.

Items

Searching the DMG, I only find "Wizard spell" in Epic boons and not in the item list. Though, the Rod of the Pact Keeper does refer to Warlock Spells, and that is slightly more clearly defined because of uniqueness of Warlock Spell Slots. Here though, you're not casting from the Rod itself. I suppose you could wonder if you can use that +1 on a wand of a warlock spell, and I think the answer here is clearly "no".

Wand of Magic Missile

I would have said that a wizard who casts from a Wand of Magic Missiles wouldn't be casting a Wizard spell as it isn't using a spell slot, isn't a spell from the wizard spell book at that moment, and isn't using the Wizard's Spell DC or Spell Attack stats -- As far I can tell from the text above.

However, that appears to be incorrect. Being on the class list is enough to count as a class spell (which fits with the PHB section above), as evidenced by this answer from Crawford on Wild Magic Surges:

Metamagic works w/ any spells that sorcerers cast. Wild Magic Surge can work w/ any sorcerer spell they cast. #DnD

https://twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/652539767821766656

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: "I don't think it is important to know if Wand of Magic Missile casting is consider a Wizard Spell for a Wizard who knows Magic Missile. I don't see any practical reason it would matter.", the example I edited out of the question because it was confusing was whether or not an Evocation Wizard who had it prepared could Overchannel an instance of the spell from the wand, which specifically requires the casting of a Wizard spell. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Aug 30 '17 at 21:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah. that would be a "no" at my table for the reasons stated. I'll edit out the "Why does it matter?" bit. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Aug 30 '17 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thinking about it at my table, I'd probably still allow it at my table because it is more funner[sic] that way. I am faster and loser in the game than I am when I'm trying to figure out what the RAW and RAI is. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Aug 30 '17 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that Crawford quote is just saying that if they pick Sorcerer for their spell origin for Ritual Caster or Magic Initiate (since you have to pick what class the spells are coming from), then those spells can trigger Wild Magic Surge. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Aug 30 '17 at 22:17
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Using the Wand of Magic Missiles as the touch-point, how is that Wand created? Probably not specified, but it seems logical that someone with the ability to cast Magic Missile personally used their magic to create the wand and used their own ability to learn and cast Magic Missile to give the wand the ability to cast a Magic Missile spell itself. Thus, through the creating wizards abilities, the wand has become a caster in it's own right, and it is casting a wizard class spell.

Anything that takes effect because a wizard spell was cast, would be triggered by the use of the wand, because the wand has cast a wizard class spell. For example, if a hallway in Athena's temple has a trap that triggers when a wizard spell is cast (after all, what temple would want wizards running around inside casting spells?) the trap would be triggered by the use of the wand, even if it was used by a fighter, or, quite unfortunately, even if used by one of the temple's own clerics in defense of the temple. The flip side is that the caster is the wand, not the wielder. Specifically with regards to the Evocation Wizard, it seems logical that the wizard didn't cast the spell, even if the wizard has the spell available to cast at that moment, therefore it cannot be Empowered or Overchanneled by the wizard. (Maybe a very advanced Evocation Wizard could find a way to create a Wand of Overchanneled Magic Missiles!)

An alternative applies for other types of items, however. Scrolls, especially Spell Scrolls, being a good example here. If the item gives the ability "to the wielder" to cast a spell, then it is the character casting the spell, not the item. The effect triggering applies, just as in the Wand of Magic Missiles above. The abilities of the caster can also, now, be applied to it. Say a wizard has a Magic Missile Scroll and reads it, thus "casting" it, then the Empowered Evocation or Evocation Overchannel could be applied to the use of the spell from the scroll. The key difference between the two situations is that, in the first case, the item is casting the spell, and in the second case the user is casting the spell, with an ability bestowed by the item.

As an easy, though not certain, method of deciding whether it is the item or the user that is casting the spell, consider the manner of determining its effect. If the effects, such as damage amount, are linked to the user (level, intelligence, wisdom, etc.), then you can likely consider the caster to be the user. If the effects, such as damage amount, are fixed, then you can probably consider the caster to be the item.

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Crawford's tweet on the subject indicates that it is as simple as the spell being on the caster's class' spell list:


What ultimately makes something a [class] (wiz/sorc/etc) spell? Is having it on your spell list enough, even if you're not high enough to cast/don't know it/don't cast via Spellcasting? I.E., can a level 1 Sorc Wild Magic Surge off of Luck Blade's wish despite not knowing it yet?

@SymphFan, 4:12 PM - 26 Jun 2018


A class's spell list is the list of that class's spells. #DnD

@JeremyECrawford, 5:57 PM - 26 Jun 2018


However, between tweets no longer being official rulings and feeling that there are a few gaps in that simple statement, I think it's worth enumerating the edge case rules to consider ahead of that bit of advice.

Here's the list of "how to determine if a spell is a particular class'" guidelines that I've inferred from other rules and rulings, in decreasing priority.

1. The spell is being directly cast from a non-Spellcasting/Pact Magic class feature.

This isn't explicitly stated in the books, but I believe this to be true for features like the warlock's Eldritch Invocations that allow casting particular spells that aren't on the warlock list, such as Dreadful Word allowing the casting of confusion. Confusion isn't explicitly marked as a warlock spell, and it isn't on the warlock spell list, but it seems clearly meant to be considered a warlock spell. RAI agrees, as well:


@JeremyECrawford If I am a Warlock and I use an invocation to cast a spell that's not on the Warlock list (such as Levitate, Confusion, or Slow) requiring a save, does it use my Warlock spell save DC? Also, can such a spell benefit from Rod of the Pact Keeper?

@Bloodcinder, 5:19 AM - 21 Feb 2019


The spells you cast through the Eldritch Invocations feature are meant to be warlock spells for you. #DnD

@JeremyECrawford, 5:18 PM - 21 Feb 2019


The other part of this to consider is this means that even if you learned confusion via another class (such as multiclassing into sorcerer or the like), this invocation's instance of casting it would still be a warlock spell.

I imagine this would also cover spells from monks' Way of the Four Elements' Elemental Disciplines, preventing them from being considered to be any other class' when cast that way.

2. The source of the spell specifically states it counts as a particular class'.

This one's a bit obvious. This is for cases like the bard's Magical Secrets or the cleric's Domain Spells, where it is explicitly stated that a learned spell counts as a particular class'. Only bothering listing it here for thoroughness' sake. This rule is generally the overriding exception to:

3. The spell was learned or cast via a specific class' spell list.

This one comes from the Sage Advice Compendium's official ruling in regards to Magic Initiate:

If you have spell slots, can you use them to cast the 1st-level spell you learn with the Magic Initiate feat? Yes, but only if the class you pick for the feat is one of your classes. For example, if you pick sorcerer and you are a sorcerer, the Spellcasting feature for that class tells you that you can use your spell slots to cast the sorcerer spells you know, so you can use your spell slots to cast the 1st-level sorcerer spell you learn from Magic Initiate. Similarly, if you are a wizard and pick that class for the feat, you learn a 1st-level wizard spell, which you could add to your spellbook and subsequently prepare.

In short, you must follow your character’s normal spellcasting rules, which determine whether you can expend spell slots on the 1st-level spell you learn from Magic Initiate.

Magic Initiate does not overtly declare the learned spell to count as the class' whose list you are learning it off of. However, this official ruling is stating that the spell has to be learned off of your own class' list, or else it does not count as your class'. As such, I feel this ruling is inferring that learning a spell off of a particular class' list makes it count as that class', which ties in with that initial quoted tweet from Crawford. Otherwise, I imagine the answer would state "Yes, but only if the spell you pick is on one of your classes' lists".

This also typically covers spells you've learned the usual way, through the Spellcasting/Pact Magic feature.


If none of those 3 steps above apply and the spell is still 'classless', then the "a class's spell list is the list of that class's spells" guideline comes in, and you can choose one of your classes with that spell on its list to have it count as that class'.

To run through the wand of magic missile example, point 1 doesn't apply, as it's not being cast via a class feature, it's being cast through the generic 'use a magic item' action. Point 2 doesn't apply, as the wand doesn't say it counts as a wizard (or otherwise) spell. Point 3 may apply if you've learned it from one of your classes, in which case the spell is somewhat locked in to that class. If you haven't learned it and point 3 doesn't apply, then Crawford's 'fallback' statement applies, and you may choose to have the wand of magic missiles' spellcast count as any of your classes which have magic missile on their list.

This also syncs up with Crawford's tweets stating that effects that trigger off of 'class spells' can trigger off of wands:


@JeremyECrawford when a wild magic sorcerer uses a wand of magic missiles, can he trigger a Wild Magic Surge?

@TheMaDdi3, 3:18 AM - 5 May 2016


@TheMaDdi3 Yes.

@JeremyECrawford, 2:57 PM - 9 May 2016


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A spell you cast is a class spell if:

  1. You prepared it using the rules for preparing spells for a particular class and then cast it using a spell slot

  2. You cast it as a ritual using the ritual casting rules for a specific class.

  3. You cast the spell using a class feature eg. Warlock invocations and mystic arcanum or spell mastery spells for wizard.

Casting using a wand or scroll or other magical item? Not a class spell.

If you have the spell prepared from more than one class then you choose when you cast it which class you are using and it is a class spell for that particular class.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I generally agree with this, you should cite relevant evidence to support it, and/or explain your reasoning. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 28 at 1:13

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