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In D&D 3.5e, blasting was known to be a comparatively weak strategy for a Wizard to adopt. On the other hand, in D&D 5e, there have been a number of changes that potentially render it more effective, for example:

  • The numbers on blasting spells have been adjusted.
  • Spell resistance has been changed to 100% chance for 50% damage instead of ~50% chance of 0% damage.
  • Summoning and polymorph options have been severely limited.
  • Specialising in Evocation gives strong benefits to blasting spells.

So, is blasting a suboptimal strategy for a D&D 5e Wizard? A good answer will be able to objectively demonstrate that this is or is not the case compared to 3.5e, or that something else is different between the two editions which alters the situation.

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So, is blasting a suboptimal strategy for a D&D5e Wizard? A good answer will be able to objectively demonstrate that this is or is not the case compared to 3.5e, or that something else is different between the two editions which alters the situation.

Compared to 3.5e, it is a less suboptimal strategy, for the reasons you mention, as well as a few more:

  • Utility spells that can be cast as rituals do not take spell slots
  • Some non-damage staples have been nerfed or removed (e.g. alter self, glitterdust, grease)
  • Cantrips allow a low level blaster to contribute

With all that in mind, I would argue that at low levels a blaster isn't suboptimal, because the options available aren't significantly stronger. However, by the time options expand with 4th-5th level spells or so, the same issues arise, even if they are lesser.

As an example of the kinds of spells that work about as well as they did in 3.5e, take wall of force. Splitting an encounter in half is almost always better than dealing damage, unless the encounter would have been no challenge anyway.

Note that even a very optimized 5e wizard will probably include some blasting in their repertoire, and more so than a 3.5e wizard might. This is because quite a few buffs, debuffs and control spells now use the concentration mechanic, which means they need something else to do when they already have one concentration effect active.

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There are two factors to think about:

1) In 5e, you can only have one concentration spell at a time. So you can only have one "buff" going.

2) You want to maximize your action economy. There are three types of actions: action, bonus action, and reaction.

3) You can take damage/instant spells that scale. You have to figure out where the "optimum" is for that scaling. For example, you may want a low level, mid level, and high level damage/instant spell.

So is blasting an optimal path for wizards? Yes, kinda. I think that if you AREN'T putting some thought and spells into blasting, then you are probably not being optimal because of #1 and #2. That does NOT mean that you have to be an evoker, it just means that you have to have a stable of blasting/instant spells so that while you are concentrating on one spell, you can optimally use your actions and slots on other actions.

To give you two "negative" examples.

What if you took all blasting spells but no utility or buffs? Then #1 and #3 would suffer.

What if you took all buffs with little to no thought to blasting (i.e. used cantrips even at high levels)? Then #2 and #3 would suffer.

To be optimal, I think you have to balance your spells, slots, and the types of actions each uses to make sure that you are as effective as possible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You have three factors listed; do you mean there's three to think about? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 17 '14 at 2:57

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