My goal is to have a viable front-line sorcerer--'viable' means that he has decent-enough AC to stay in the front (as high as a rogue should be sufficient, no?), and good-enough damage that he's not a bad pack-mule for the party (the build isn't really giving up much damage, compared to straight sorcerer; so, this shouldn't be an issue). Ideally, the build would include War Caster and Sentinel, in order to get 2 casts per round, as often as possible.

I'm wondering whether the following build would be viable for melee sorcerer (survive in melee, and deal above average damage). If not, any suggestions to make it so?


  • Class: 1 Rogue, 19 Sorcerer
  • Sorcerous Origin: Draconic Bloodline (Bronze-Lightning)
  • Race: Drow


  • Str 8
  • Dex 16 (14 Starting, +2 Drow)
  • Con 14
  • Int 10
  • Wis 10
  • Cha 20 (15 Starting, +1 Drow, +4 from ability increase)


  • Elemental Adept
  • Sentinel (or Lucky)
  • War Caster (or Defensive Duelist)


  • The gist is that Draconic Bloodline grants +19 HP and 13+Dex Mod AC (better than a Chain Shirt), so, the char should be fine for AC in the low levels (and will hopefully find some light/medium armor for the late game--ideally something that doesn't interfere with Dragon Wings).
  • Offensively, Rapier with Sneak Attack will take care of the first 2-3 levels, until Shocking Grasp (for example, gets +Cha mod damage) has scaled, and higher-level spells when needed.
  • Presumably, Sentinel and War Caster will allow me to cast two spells per round (2x Shocking Grasps, worst-case scenario), and I'm hoping this damage is decent enough (with the +Cha Mods), while exercising some control over the battlefield.
  • Alternatively, Defensive Duelist and Lucky will give me much more survivability, but at the cost of offensive power.

I haven't picked spells yet, but I'll be leaning towards offensive non-range, non-concentration (suggestions welcome). I was hoping to use Stealth (with Cunning Action) to hide during combat, but unless I cast invisibility first, I don't see how else to do it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ any reason not to start fighter instead? better weapon proficiencies, you can get a +1 to your AC and start in heavy armor and get a shield. Also, if you're taking 2 levels of a class, you're only going to get 4 abil ups rather than 5 since the last one comes at 19. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Aug 26 '14 at 3:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Khashir neither Rogues nor Sorcerer gets a shield proficiency. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Aug 26 '14 at 5:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ To answer charop questions we need objectively-defined goals that you want the character to fulfill. To put it another way: define "viable" in an operationalized sense, please? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 26 '14 at 6:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Okay. To operationalise those though: survive against what? Enough damage against what? What line on those two things separates correct answers from incorrect ones? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 26 '14 at 7:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, that looks much more specific. It's always good to get what you've got in mind out of your mind and onto the page. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 26 '14 at 7:41

This really isn't as viable as you'd probably want it to be.

First, there really isn't a way to hide and play in melee at the same time (unless you're a halfling).

Second, a 16 AC is OK at first level, but will be pretty bad late in the game (the couple of high CR creatures we've seen would hit that 95% of the time, which is as much as they can). So you're definitely in trouble late.

If you want to patch the AC though, you're going to have to either switch to medium armor, or consider a Fighter, Paladin or Ranger for the first two levels. Fighter and Pally will give you access to heavy armor, all three will give you a shield, but more importantly, all three give you access to the Defensive fighting style which will give you a +1 bonus to AC for free if you wear some kind of armor.

As far as dealing with dragon wings in armor, the only catch is that you need to get armor specifically made for them. That's wouldn't be hard to commission and shouldn't be much (if any) more expensive than a standard set of armor (Though it may take a few days or weeks to get).

You've also got one too many feats here. If you take 2 levels of a class, and then 18 of another class, you only get 4 ability increases instead of 5, since you're spending 2 on boosting cha, you'll only get 2 feats. Up to you which two. Or you could stick to an 18 CHA, not the best choice, but it's quite viable.

So no, I don't think Rogue 2/Sorcerer 18 is viable in melee. I think it could be an interesting class to play, but it should probably stick to sneaking around and shooting from the shadows rather than mixing it up in melee.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, the Hiding in Melee isn't the key to the build, just a desideratum. What's a reasonable L20 AC? The heaviest armor gives 18 AC + 1 from Defensive Fighting style, for a total of 19 AC vs. 16. Am I missing something? 80% hit seems pretty terrible too. I don't think I can wear a shield, since presumably the spell casting focus is in one hand, and the Rapier in the other. Yeah, I hadn't realised that the ability increases were tied to the class levels, not the character levels--gah, way to kill multiclassing =(. So, probably would be L1 Rogue, L19 Sorc. \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Aug 26 '14 at 4:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it be viable with the Defensive Duelist/Lucky feats? 22 AC and reroll when a BBEG attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Aug 26 '14 at 4:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm getting confused here between what is viable and what is optimal. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Aug 26 '14 at 5:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I'd like to do is fight/cast in the front lines without getting creamed. I don't need to max AC, I'm more than happy with at least 'above average' AC (especially if I can keep 20 Cha, War Caster, and Sentinel feats). \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Aug 26 '14 at 6:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob Rightly so! This is why we are supposed to insist on objective goals for narrow [optimization] questions like this. "Viable" isn't an objectively-defined goal. VTC incoming. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 26 '14 at 6:54

It depends on your definition of viable, but this build is far from powerful

Shocking Grasp does 4d8+5 (23) damage on your turn, 46 in total if you are lucky (smart enemies do not trigger Sentinel).
A simple Ranger on the same level with Hunter's Mark and a longbow would do (1d8+1d6+5) x 3 = 39, and we are not even considering magic items.

Magic Weapons add to damage as well, while Magic Implements only to attack, so a caster comes out even worse. A Paladin or Fighter with Polearm Master could do much more damage.

It is not so much that your build is not good in melee, Sorcerers generally are bad at it. Cantrips are even designed not to be competitive with weapon attacks (except for Eldritch Blast). Casters have lower base damage, and bigger novas.

What casters are good in melee?

Now that we have the cantrips from Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, Sorcerer is a very good secondary class, if your goal is melee damage. A quickened Green Flame Blade does great damage.
With a Great Weapon Fighting Paladin you can have one hand free whenever you want to cast something.

  • Start with Paladin if you value AC and HP more, start with Sorcerer if you care more about Con saves. I would go Paladin, Heavy Armor Proficiency is hard to come by
  • Take Paladin to level 2, to gain Fighting Style. Great Weapon Fighting is not a must any more, as it no longer improves on Divine Smite, Improved Divine Smite, and Divine Favor
  • If you did not start with Sorcerer, this is a good place to get one level of it, for Shield
  • 4 more levels of Paladin gives you Extra Attack, and Aura of Protection. Both are extremely good, but for different reasons
  • Take 3 more levels of Sorcerer, 3 for the quickened Green Flame Blade, one more for ASI
  • Finish your training as a Paladin on level 12, nothing here will increase your damage output
  • The rest should be Sorcerer

At level 20 you will be able to cast 4th level Sorcerer and 3rd level Paladin spells in 7th level spell slots. Casting Blindness on 6 targets with a bonus action is sweet, so is a Fireball with 12d6 damage, and you are as damaging as any Paladin.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you—your answer was extremely insightful. The only minor quibble would be to clarify that the main issue is not Sorcerers in melee (as you claim in one part of the answer), but a Sorcerer/caster build centered around cantrips (for the reasons you state). I.e., a ranged Sorcerer build would face the same issues if they went White Dragon ancestry and Ray of Frost. Fortunately, since I posted this question ~1.5 years ago, WotC have given me a (seemingly) viable alternative with Storm Sorcerer and Storm Sphere. \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Dec 17 '15 at 21:02

It seems to me that this build is viable but not optimal.

Dual wielding weapons will be better than using a 1d8 rapier (you'll be doing 2d6 when you hit both time). When your cantrips or spells would be better used than attacking with a weapon, as a "free action" (those don't have a real term in 5e) you can stow one of your weapons, giving you a free hand, which you can use to access your component pouch and do somatic gestures.

For armor, you'll start off with 16 AC, whether you use medium armor or your draconic heritage, or if you have access to heavy armor. With medium armor, you can then increase that to an AC of 17 later, and with heavy armor it can be up to 18. If you multiclass with access to heavy armor rather than a rogue, you can put your stats into con or something else instead. At level 20 however, an AC of 16 isn't quite good enough. The reason why a rogue can get away with an AC of 17 is because they will have multiple abilities to run in and out of melee, as well as to avoid damage from Dex saves. AC alone does not define your ability to survive. But as a sorcerer, you'll also have the ability to fly for the same purpose.

You aren't going to die any more easily than a rogue, since your draconic heritage effectively gives you a d8 hit die rather than a d6, and you gain all your sorcery bits. But depending on what you are trying to do, there are probably better ways to do it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please share :). How would dual-wielding help, if the primary aim is to cast? \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Aug 26 '14 at 7:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, Draconic Resilience is as good as a Breastplate, so, a Rogue could have, at most, +1 AC by wearing a half-plate. Unless I'm missing something, I don't think this would be much improvement (I'd be giving up too much flavour/RP just to get 1 AC). \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Aug 26 '14 at 7:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @khashir You should clarify what flavour /RP you are going for, so that can be better analyzed. (Rather than what flavor your build allows you to do) \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Aug 26 '14 at 7:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm aiming for a nimble character, ideally with no armor, but I'd reconsider this, if I need armor to survive. However, having to go from no armor to the heaviest medium armor for +1 AC, or the heaviest armor in the game for +2 AC... seems like too big a trade off (not to mention the encumbrance). How about this--I just realised that, in later levels, there's no need for the Rapier (esp. since I'm aiming for War Caster, rather than Defensive Duelist). So, I'll pick up a level of something that gives me shield proficiency, and wield the shield in one hand, and the focus in the other? \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Aug 26 '14 at 8:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Khashir yeah, that's what I was thinking, but I didn't want to metion fighter/paladin/war cleric without knowing what character concept you wanted. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Aug 26 '14 at 8:42

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