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I've thought of building a wizard who emphasizes supporting the team instead of just picking all the spells that do damage. And I want to take that a step further: no direct damage. Flavor-wise, he is an elderly character that loathes hurt and suffering. He leaves combat for the young-uns and understands its necessity, but does not directly harm enemies.

Build Concept

Build a Wizard (that may multi-class into other casters) that takes no spells that directly damage enemies. This includes: spells with an attack roll, spells that cause damage based on a Saving Throw, spells that enhance my own attacks, and spells that increase the damage I do on other attacks.

Build Parameters

Standard point-array, feats and multi-classing allowed. Wizard supports the following party members: monk, warlock, barbarian, ranger. I'm not sure what my other members are specializing, but I'm confident about an UA Zealot Barbarian and a Hunter Ranger. They are all damage-oriented players who like to compete and shine in battle, damage-wise. Our campaigns usually have a full-level progression, but we can focus on levels 1-14 (which I can realistically expect to play). Role in battle:

  1. Support the team

  2. Control enemies

  3. Prevent deaths

  4. When the party really needs the damage output, to use an army of creatures to fight for him.

The Build So Far

400 year old Forest Gnome (INT +2, DEX +1), knows Minor Illusion, able to speak with small animals (good for scouting). The spells for my book.

Cantrip list

  • Mage hand, Light, Message
  • Blade Ward
  • Prestidigitation / Mending

Spells List:

Support/Control oriented:

  • Find Familiar (ritual) - to Help our warlock with his few but powerful spells
  • Hold X - keep a nasty target on lockdown until party can focus him
  • Blur / Mage Armor - one requires concentration, other lasts a lot longer
  • Darkness / Fog Cloud - for defense tactics
  • Polymorph - turn comrades out of resources into powerful beasts
  • Fly
  • Counterspell / Dispel magic
  • Wall of X
  • Mass Suggestion

Combat oriented

  • Create Undead
  • Animate X
  • Conjure X

Exploration

  • Breathe underwater
  • Fly
  • Invisibility
  • Leomund's Tiny Hut

I seek feedback on how to optimize my spell list. However, recommended feats and schools of magic to get the right fit for this concept are welcome

Did I miss any spell that would further my goal of supporting the party?
Are there unnecessary spells here that will not work together or that are too situational?

TL;DR: What spells should I take to make a great combat-support Wizard whose spells do not do direct-damage to enemies, and that can enhance the party's other members strengths or cover their weaknesses?

The answers should be measured by:

  • Team synergy - spells that draw on the strengths of party members and help them shine and stand-out. Despite knowing the party can change (people die, people leave, etc), to be able to make another character give it his best and then some, is the best thing a support can do, is it not? (e.g., keep the familiar helping the warlock. His few spells are the most potent, and him having advantage on them really makes them worth it)
  • Detail - not just a list of spells, but also why they are (or are not!) useful. Feel free to also reject the spells I have listed. To measure their usefulness, you can resort to your experience in D&D games, as to what is commonly found and what is regularly needed (e.g., the Light spell is always a must if someone in your party does not have Darkvision). If the explanation of the spells is not clear, add an example of it's utility (or lack-there-of). E.g., "dont take X and Y, both require concentration and are for self-defense" or "don't take Darkness and Fog Cloud, since Fog Cloud just outshines Darkness".
  • Versatility / Avoid Redundancy - a good spell list that works against a well-rounded variety of enemies AND with utility for non-combat situations. So, not just something that works against a single melee boss. Bonus points for giving examples of the situations (e.g., "spells X, Y, Z make a good combination VS a Lich boss and his underlings", "X and Y are good against melee targets", "the overall list has a hard time against this type of enemy, so in this case you must change your playstyle and rely on the party as you take a step back", or "spell Levitate not only is good against melee enemies, but is also useful to explore hidden zones")
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closed as too broad by nitsua60 May 4 '18 at 3:59

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've moved all the comments from a year back to their own chat room, to make room for discussing it anew. (But please do read back over the record.) I've also opened a meta on this question to discuss it's breadth and open/close status. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Apr 28 '18 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ that meta ^^ seems to suggest "closed" is where the community is. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 May 4 '18 at 3:58
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If your group allows Unearthed Arcana, a Wizard with the arcane tradition Theurgy is probably going to do the most to support a group, albeit using many Cleric spells in addition to wizard spells.

http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/faithful

A Theurgist gets to pick up cleric spells and uses their features, such as channel divinity. Having looked through the different domains, I prefer the life domain due to their channel divinity, domain features, and domain spells.

If you're not interested in that concept you can safely ignore the rest of this post.

This build will be a problem if you can't obtain access to some wizard spells through scrolls or other mage's spell books, because of the number of cleric spells you cannot get without using your spells gained on level up, and the number of good 3rd levels spells on the wizard spell list.

As I mentioned, the Life domain has a good set of domain spells, which is important because to take additional cleric spells outside of the domain requires you to first take the domain spells. That means you should pick up the following spells:

  • 1st: Bless, Cure Wounds
  • 3rd: Lesser Restoration, Spiritual Weapon
  • 5th: Beacon of Hope, Revivify
  • 7th: Death Ward, Guardian of Faith
  • 9th: Mass Cure Wounds, Raise Dead

I don't know if you would count spiritual weapon as direct damage, but if you do it'd be a wasted slot.

After that I'd pick up some ritual spells that Clerics get but wizards do not. The exact spells depend a bit on your campaign, but I'm preferential to Water Walking and Silence. Clerics also have some good divination rituals, but their efficacy will vary by DM.

You can pick the remaining spells out of what seems most useful from either class. On the cleric side, Sanctuary, Aid, Freedom of Movement, Contagion, Heal, and Holy Aura all stand out as good picks.

Great wizard spells include fog cloud, mage armor, find familiar, hold person, levitate, counter spell, dispel magic, haste, slow, leomund's tiny hut, fly, banishment, greater invisibility, polymorph, telekinesis, wall of force, Otto's irresistible dance, mass suggestion, true seeing, force cage, reverse gravity, feeblemind, mind blank, wish, true polymorph. There are many additional, great situational wizard spells, but I think this list offers solutions to multiple problems.

Here's a list of what I'd pick in order if I could not obtain any spells via scrolls. I stopped at 15 because that's where most published adventures stop.

Cantrips: Minor Illusion, Friends, Mage Hand, Mending, Prestidigitation

  1. Fog Cloud, Mage Armor, Find Familiar, Detect Magic, Shield, Sleep
  2. Bless, Cure Wounds
  3. Hold Person, Levitate
  4. Spiritual Weapon, Invisibility
  5. Slow, Leomund's Tiny Hut
  6. Haste, Dispel Magic
  7. Banishment, Polymorph
  8. Fly, Counterspell
  9. Telekinesis, Wall of Force
  10. Mass Cure Wounds, Death Ward
  11. Otto's Irresistable Dance, Mass Suggestion
  12. Greater Invisiblity, Guardian of Faith
  13. Force Cage, True Seeing
  14. Reverse Gravity, Raise Dead
  15. Feeblemind, Mind Blank

Reasoning behind select spells:

On Cantrips, you are picking 5 from Blade Ward, Dancing Lights, Friends, Light, Mage Hand, Mending, Message, Minor Illusion, and Prestidigitation. Of those, Dancing Lights and Light can be replaced by darkvision or a light source, and I seldom see a reason to cast Blade Ward instead of something to end the fight quicker. Finally, I chose against message because it seems to be the weakest of the remaining.

Bless is one of the best support spells in the game, directly improving attack rolls and saving throws.

Cure Wounds can easily be the difference between a dead party member and a living party member.

Levitate offers both a way to keep a melee fighter crowd controlled, and works as a unique mobility aid.

Death Ward is good to have on yourself, as someone that can heal.

Mass Cure Wounds is a great maximized (which you get with the life theurgist at level 14)

Slow is a unique crowd control in that it scales to improve the better your enemy is. It really scales down enemies with multi-attack.

Banishment is an encounter ender.

Polymorph is capable of turning a party member into a T-Rex. If you can be a T-Rex you probably should.

Telekinesis can push around creatures and objects. It can potentially last for more than one encounter. Alternatively, Bigby's hand gives you less freedom and a shorter duration but more explicitly spelled out options.

Wall of Force is a good way to divide and conquer.

Otto's Irresistible Dance gives all of your allies advantage, and requires an action on the part of the enemy to leave the dance.

Force cage is unavoidable crowd control. The material component can be reused.

Feeblemind is an encounter ender. I actually forgot it did damage.

Mind blank provides outright immunity to a lot of things. It's situational, but in those situations you win.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have access to the Tweet here at work but I recall Crawford stating that you cannot gain more Cleric spells until you have gone past ALL domain spells, clarifying that you are waiting until like at least 9th or 10th to be able shed the limitation of the Domain spells on that list. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Apr 27 '18 at 18:20
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This playstyle is not yet supported by official materials

Even with the new options available from XGtE, you will be quite inefficient without some homebrewing.

Damage is not the only way to be relevant in combat

Arguably, the best spells don't do damage, like Faerie Fire, Hold Person, Web, Invisibility, Haste, Fear or Misty Step, just to name a few from the lower levels.
However, most of these require your concentration, and all cost spell slots.

What you need

What can you spend your actions on, once you have started your concentration spells? Here are the requirements:

  1. Should be combat relevant
  2. No concentration
  3. No spell slot
  4. Decent range, to keep you out of harms way

For other casters, cantrips like Sacred Flame or Fire Bolt fit the bill perfectly.

Candidates

Damaging cantrips are obviously out, what else is there:

  • Blade Ward: violates 4 or 1, you don't really need it in the back, and going to the frontline is foolish. That is what you have all the Skeletons and Conjured Animals for
  • True Strike: violates 2 and 4, you can't use it on others, and you don't use things that need an attack roll
  • Help action: violates 4, usable only next to the enemy
  • Mold Earth: comes closest, but its effectiveness in combat is questionable (1?)
  • Create Bonfire: obviously you can't use it directly, but can be useful for area denial. Still quite ineffective in combat (1?)

Solutions

Reskinning

You seem to be fine causing indirect damage, with Skeleton archers and conjured animals.
So instead of casting Fireball, cast Conjure Flameskull:

A Flameskull appears in your space, and casts Fireball. It then disappears.

Treat it exactly like the Fireball spell.
Do this for every desirable spell, using existing mechanics for balance and your imagination for aesthetics and thematic consistency.

Homebrewing

I would ask my DM to:

  • change Blade Ward so allies can be targeted from 30 feet
  • create a cantrip that does exactly as the Help action, but from 30 feet
  • modify the Virtue cantrip from UA by adding it 30 feet range, providing only 1 + Ability Mofidier tHP

I think all options are totally balanced.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I realy like this answer, despite all the downvotes. Though I have one objection concerning Help-Cantrip. It nullifies Rogue Mastermind archtype help action ability at cost of learning one cantrip. \$\endgroup\$ – AntiDrondert Apr 26 '18 at 14:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AntiDrondert It’s been completely rewritten in the past hour, so the votes are for how it used to be written. Vote according to what you see now, and never mind the other votes. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 26 '18 at 14:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AntiDrondert the Mastermind Rogue can do it as a bonus action, a much bigger difference \$\endgroup\$ – András Apr 26 '18 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @András Maybe now is too late, but in your case, I might've suggested deleting the previous answer and starting a new one. The answer changed so drastically that I feel starting from a score of -7 puts it at a disadvantage against other answers \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Apr 28 '18 at 10:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93, you can't add new answers to locked questions. \$\endgroup\$ – András May 3 '18 at 21:48

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