Last Updated on January 22, 2023
I’ve foreseen this moment. You… are going to read this article… and decide to play a Divination wizard in your next campaign.
In D&D, there are an incredible amount of magical abilities that players can get their hands on, most of which have some form of representation in the many wizard subclasses.
Today, we’re going to be talking about a wizard subclass that peers into crystal balls and reads tea leaves to learn what is to come.
Divination is powerful magic on its own before we even get into the features this subclass offers. After all, in a game that is largely about unknown outcomes and exploration, seeing what is to come is an amazing tool.
However, divination is also a type of magic that requires a decent amount of work on the DM’s part. Seeing into the future isn’t really helpful if your DM hasn’t planned anything further than the session you’re in.
While this is an amazing subclass with a lot of powerful abilities, as you’ll soon see, it’s also a subclass that relies on its favored school of magic being useful at the table you’re playing at.
It’s as simple as talking with your DM before getting attached to this character and seeing how they handle divination. Setting up this kind of rapport is always useful, but it’s especially so for divination wizards.
Now that I’ve got my warnings out of the way, we can get into the fun stuff.
In this article, we’re going to take you through all the ins and outs of playing a divination wizard in 5e D&D.
Grab your tea, convene with some spirits, and toss some bones into the fire as we talk about just how good this subclass’s features really are. Then, pull out a scroll and your finest ink so we can prophesize your next character.
Divination Wizard Defining Abilities
- Control future outcomes
- Regain spell slots
- Obtain boundless knowledge
The divination wizard is a widely loved subclass, and there’s a good reason for it.
It offers one of the best features for controlling outcomes in a game that’s based largely on the randomness of dice. The portent feature, when used wisely, is going to allow you to do incredible things.
Portent, 2nd Level Feature
When you finish a long rest, roll two d20s and record the numbers rolled. You can replace any attack roll, saving throw, or ability check made by you or a creature that you can see with one of these foretelling rolls.
You must choose to do so before the roll, and you can replace a roll in this way only once per turn.
Each foretelling roll can be used only once. When you finish a long rest, you lose any unused foretelling rolls.
This signature ability of the divination wizard can affect attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws.
Essentially, that’s just about any time that a d20 could be rolled. It certainly accounts for all of the most common rolls and the most important ones.
Portent doesn’t eliminate the random element from D&D entirely. Instead, it gives you the ability to change two outcomes throughout the day (three once you’ve reached 14th level).
If you could choose any outcome for two rolls, this would be incredibly overpowered and possibly the coolest 2nd-level ability in the entire game.
The tricky part of this ability is that you have to roll the two outcomes at the beginning of the day. If it’s a 1 and a 20, you’re golden. Such extremes make your choices very easy.
When you end up with a 12 and a 14, you have to be a lot more creative to get extreme outcomes.
There are a few important things to do to make sure you’re getting the best results with your portent.
- Know your spell save DC. It seems very simple because it is. If you end up with a portent roll that’s lower than your DC, be ready to force a saving throw to fail.
- Pay attention to ACs and your allies attack modifiers. Don’t make the mistake of using a “high” portent roll to force a success on an important attack roll that would probably succeed anyway. If you know the dynamic of the battlefield and understand the numbers, you can make smart decisions.
- Don’t be afraid to “waste” a portent roll. Be decisive and considerate, but don’t hoard your resources to the point that you don’t use them at all. You’re not going to have a critical encounter with the BBEG every day, so don’t be afraid to use portent on a stealth check you really need to succeed.
The next thing that makes this subclass stand out is the Expert Divination feature at 6th level. It lets you regain spell slots when you cast your divination spells.
Specifically, whenever you cast a divination spell of 2nd level or higher, you can regain a spell slot of a lower level than the one you expended.
This is a huge ability as it can get you a lot of free spell slots. Once you have access to 9thlevel spells, you could even make a cascade that nets you five free spell slots.
First, you cast a 6th-level divination spell, then a 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and finally a 1st-level spell. Obviously, this requires you to cast six divination spells, but it’s really fun if you can pull it off.
Realistically, you won’t be cascading spells all the time, but even if you only cast three divination spells in a day, you’ll at least be regaining three spell slots. At 6th level, you normally have 10 spell slots.
From Arcane Recovery, any wizard of this level could regain a maximum of three spell slots on a short rest, so we can say that most 6th-level wizards get between 10 and 16 spell slots in a day.
Casting just four divination spells means that you’re getting 25% more out of your spells in a day!
Another, more down to earth, way of looking at this is that divination spells don’t cost much to cast. That’s the important thing to take away.
Combine this with the fact that a decent amount of divination spells are rituals, and you are the wizard that gets to cast the most spells, hands down.
All of that’s good and well, but how good are divination spells, really? Well, pretty good when you use them well.
Unlike a lot of other spells, these require some amount of strategy to pull off. There’s no divination version of fireball that you can just launch at your foes and hope for the best.
In fact, there’s only one divination spell available to wizards that deals damage, the 2nd-level spell Mind Spike. No, divination isn’t the subclass to get into if you want to play a spell blaster whom dragons will cower from.
Divination magic is all about divining knowledge. That knowledge comes in the form of glimpses into the future, secrets, locations of hidden objects, the thoughts of others, and more.
If you’re the kind of D&D player who wants to figure out all the little secrets your DM has littered throughout the adventure, this is the subclass for you.
Divination Wizard Limitations
- No combat application
- DM resistance
It would be unfair to say that there is no combat application for divination wizards.
After all, they have a cantrip that gives them advantage on attack rolls and an ability that lets them decide the outcome of events. Clearly, there are some ways that this class can be useful in combat.
The reason I’ve listed combat as a limitation is because the subclass itself doesn’t really offer any abilities that directly affect combat or any focus on combat.
Portent is mostly excluded here because you can only use it twice in a day. That’s not enough to call it a combat ability. If anything, it’s a last resort.
When I consider a subclass’s limitations, I use the concept of a wizard without a subclass as a basis for my judgments. This hypothetical wizard would only have the features offered by the base class.
A plain old wizard is pretty decent in combat with a lot of spells to choose from that can do terrifying things.
Taking a subclass, I expect to get features that can reliably improve my effectiveness in all three pillars of the D&D experience (Combat, Exploration, Social Interaction).
You could argue that the spell-slot recovery is effective because it lets us cast combat spells, but that’s only if we’re also using up actions to cast divination spells.
This by no means makes the divination wizard a bad subclass. It’s a limitation but one that can be overcome.
When playing this subclass, you have to make a conscious effort to be ready for combat instead of over-relying on your foresight to avoid conflict.
Not having explicit combat features means that you’ll have to be creative when building your character.
You might want to multiclass, or pick up some feats to improve your martial capabilities, or find a way to balance divination utility spells with reliable damage-dealing spells.
Either way, this is a challenge that you shouldn’t necessarily run from.
If you’re a brand-new player, wizards can already be a bit intimidating. The concept of spell slots can definitely fry minds when you first learn about it.
If you want a divination wizard to be your first character, make sure that you do a lot of planning and that you have a DM who’s willing to help you along the way.
That brings us to the only other limitation this subclass has… DMs. This is not a universal limitation, but it’s one that I have to reiterate from the intro to this article.
Some DMs don’t like divination magic. Specifically, some DMs don’t like spells and abilities that allow players to peek behind the DM screen a bit.
This isn’t something that you as a player can really deal with if it happens. The best thing to do is talk to your DM and make sure that divination magic is cool at their table.
It can be a challenge to have information readily available when a player tries to see into the future or peer into the mind of an enemy. Hell, it can be hard enough to come up with names for random NPCs in a tavern.
If a DM tells you that they struggle with divination magic, try to be as understanding as possible and have a conversation to see where you can go from here.
Again, this isn’t a universal limitation. It’s common enough for me to mention it, but there are plenty of DMs out there that welcome a challenge and have loads of knowledge sitting in their notes, just ready for you to grab up for yourself.
Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System
Color and Tier ranking is very helpful when you’re trying to digest a lot of information. In our ongoing series of 5e class guides, we use the following color-rating scheme:
- Red – C Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful and might make for an interesting narrative choice, but they are largely less effective than other tiers.
- Green – B Tier. Solid but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or Green can be very good but only in very specific situations.
- Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective.
- Purple – S Tier. The top of our rankings. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way. No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are worth strongly considering when you create your character.
Our goal here is to provide scannable but comprehensive guides for you as you develop your character.
While we might sometimes make reference to unofficial or homebrew content to illustrate a point (or just because it’s too cool not to talk about), every option we suggest is legal in the official rules for D&D 5e as published by Wizards of the Coast.
Choosing a race in 5e is an important part of building a character that you can really enjoy. There are a lot of things that go into that decision, and that process is slowly changing.
Since 5e came out, one of the most important parts of choosing your race has been picking the ability-score bonuses that fit best with the class you choose.
A typical race has one or two set ability-score bonuses (such as +2 Intelligence and +1 Dexterity) along with some unique racial traits.
In recent years, that’s started to change as more and more races have come out that allow you to choose custom ability scores.
Races like the Owlin aren’t pigeonholed into one specific class and instead can be used for just about any character that you want to use their abilities with.
In this section, our recommendations are still based on the way races have worked in 5e for the last decade, but talk to your DM about how custom lineages work at their table.
If custom ability scores are allowed for any or even a few, races, feel free to ignore this bit of advice and choose a race that you think is cool.
With all that being said, here are some of the best races in 5e for a divination wizard.
INT +2, CON +1
Gnomes make excellent wizards. Not only are they one of the few races to offer up a bonus to intelligence, but their abilities fit nicely as well.
Advantage on all of the mental abilities’ saving throws is insanely powerful for a spellcaster because it means having excellent protection from other spellcasters.
INT +2, WIS +1
Vedalken abilities are almost the same as the rock gnome without the inclusion of tinkering or darkvision.
You do miss out on the much-needed bonus to constitution, but if you don’t want to be a gnome, this becomes a great option.
We tend to choose these based on our highest stats, but choosing a different route based on how you want to roleplay isn’t a bad idea, especially since adding your proficiency bonus might compensate for a not-so-good ability modifier.
Keep in mind that the 1st-level divination spell Borrowed Knowledge can give you proficiency in any skill for an hour.
Obviously, you should still pick some proficiencies that fit your character, but you really don’t have to worry about regretting your decisions later on.
The wizard class is given the ability to choose two skills: Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, and Religion.
- Arcana (INT) – Arcana lets you ascertain magical information. If there’s any skill that’s perfect for a divination wizard, it’s this one.
- History (INT) – Similar to arcana, history checks will let you glean information. This brings to mind the whole “tell me your past and I’ll tell you your future” concept. Understanding history makes predicting future events a whole lot easier.
- Insight (WIS) – You’ll get a lot further by just reading someone’s thoughts, but having the insight to understand someone’s intentions is always helpful.
- Investigation (INT) – Again, you have spells that can do a better job of finding things. If you don’t want to burn a spell slot though, being good at picking out clues can be quite useful.
- Medicine (WIS) – You don’t need this skill at all. Medicine doesn’t really come into play with the theme, and you can just let a cleric or druid worry about the medicinal side of things.
- Religion (INT) – I would avoid religion unless it’s important to your character’s backstory. This is also such a rarely used skill that you can really rely on Borrowed Knowledge for success.
Backgrounds are a great way to start to flesh out who your character is. There are some mechanical benefits to a background, like proficiencies and features that are generally concerned with survival.
Proficiency in History and Survival
I really like the idea of someone that knows so much about the past that they can learn about the future.
This background is very much inspired by the crypt raiding Indiana Jones and Lara Croft characters, so you get some cool features and equipment that are great for dungeon diving.
Proficiency in Deception and Insight
A bit of an obscure background from the Acquisitions Incorporated sourcebook, but I love this concept.
First, a gambler who can change outcomes is basically just any really good blackjack player, so I imagine this character is banned from more than a few casinos.
Second, I love the idea of someone who can obtain almost limitless amounts of information and still manage to deceive others.
Obviously that shouldn’t be your party, but you can use the knowledge you’ve gained to be really slippery around government officials, city guards, and anyone who might get in your way.
Divination Wizard Progression
Features that you automatically obtain through the Wizard class will appear in Orange, and features that you gain through the Divination subclass will appear in Gray.
Filling Out the Character Sheet (Level 0)
Hit Dice: 1d6 per Wizard level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d6 (or 4) + your Constitution modifier per wizard level after 1st
Weapons: Daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows
Saving Throws: Intelligence, Wisdom
Skills: Choose two from Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, and Religion
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- (a) A quarterstaff or (b) a dagger
- (a) A component pouch or (b) an arcane focus
- (a) A scholar’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
- A spellbook
Spellcasting is the main source of a wizard’s power.
Wizards use intelligence as their spellcasting ability, so your spell save DC is 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier, and your spell attack modifier is your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier.
Wizards use a spellbook, which starts off with 6 1st-level spells. As you find or learn other spells, you can copy them into your book.
Each day you can prepare a number of spells chosen from your spellbook equal to your Intelligence modifier + your wizard level.
You know a number of wizard cantrips, which you can cast at will as shown on the table above.
On a short rest, you can recover spell slots. The levels of the slots you recover can combine to a total of half your wizard level.
For example, if you are a 4th-level wizard, you can recover one 2nd-level spell slot or two 1st-level spell slots on your short rest.
Pairing this with Expert Divination at 6th level means we get a lot of spell slots for free.
The obligatory wizard feature lets you spend half the time and gold to record divination spells in your spellbook.
You can pick up some non-divination spells when you gain levels and just hunt down the divination spells that you need to fill your roster.
You roll two dice at the start of your day and record the outcomes. Before a character makes an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, you can decide to use one of your predetermined outcomes instead of allowing them to roll.
Cantrip Formulas (Optional):
Whenever you finish a long rest, you can replace one of your known wizard cantrips with another wizard cantrip. This is a great optional feature introduced in TCoE that really allows you to explore all of your options.
You can either increase one ability by 2 points or two abilities by 1. Alternatively you can choose a feature – if you already have great stats, this is a great choice.
When you cast a divination spell of 2nd level or higher, you regain a spell slot of a lower level than the one you expended. You can’t regain a spell slot higher than 5th level in this way.
The Third Eye:
You can use your action to gain one of the following benefits, which lasts until you are incapacitated or you take a short or long rest.
- Darkvision. You gain darkvision out to a range of 60 feet.
- Ethereal Sight. You can see into the Ethereal Plane within 60 feet of you.
- Greater Comprehension. You can read any language.
- See Invisibility. You can see invisible creatures and objects within 10 feet of you that are within line of sight.
You can’t use the feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
You now roll three dice for your portent at the beginning of the day.
Choose a 1st-level wizard spell and a 2nd-level wizard spell that are in your spellbook. You can cast those spells at their lowest level without expending a spell slot when you have them prepared.
If you want to cast either spell at a higher level, you must expend a spell slot as normal.
By spending 8 hours in study, you can exchange one or both of the spells you chose for different spells of the same levels.
When you reach 20th level, you gain mastery over two powerful spells and can cast them with little effort. Choose two 3rd-level wizard spells in your spellbook as your signature spells.
You always have these spells prepared, they don’t count against the number of spells you have prepared, and you can cast each of them once at 3rd level without expending a spell slot.
When you do so, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest.
If you want to cast either spell at a higher level, you must expend a spell slot as normal.
Try not to choose a divination spell for either your signature spells or spell mastery spells. If you’re not using a spell slot on them, you don’t get to regain spell slots when you cast them.
For the divination wizard, we want feats that can allows us to be a bit more useful in combat, preferably without needing to use a lot of our spell slots.
There are a few ways you could do this, but most would require some sort of multiclassing.
We can then choose an invocation like Agonizing Blast to improve the Eldritch Blast. We could also improve our AC by choosing the Armor of Shadows invocation so we always have Mage Armor without burning our spell slots.
With the cantrip combination of True Strike and Eldritch Blast, we can reliably deal a lot of damage without needing an incredibly high charisma. This is how we “multiclass” without becoming a M.A.D. build.
Divination Wizard Build
For the following example build, we’ve used the standard set of scores provided in the PHB (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) when deciding ability scores.
The only levels mentioned for the purpose of these builds are those when you will have the opportunity to make a decision on how your adventurer grows.
- Race: Rock Gnome
- Background: Archaeologist
- Ability Scores: STR 8, DEX 13, CON 14, INT 17, WIS 12, CHA 14
- Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Investigation, History, Survival
- Language Proficiencies: Gnomish, Common, Dwarven
- Tool Proficiencies: Cartographer’s Tools
- Equipment: A quarterstaff, a component pouch, a scholar’s pack, a spellbook, a wooden case containing a map to a ruin or dungeon, a bullseye lantern, a miner’s pick, a set of traveler’s clothes, a shovel, a two-person tent, a trinket recovered from a dig site, and a pouch containing 25 gp.
You gain access to 1st-level spell slots and cantrips. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- True Strike – Glimpsing into a target’s weaknesses to be able to hit them where it hurts is an easy flip to “glimpsing possible timeline’s to see how to hurt them best.”
- Detect Magic – Knowing what kind of magic is around you and where it is is invaluable knowledge.
You gain access to 2nd-level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Mind Spike – The only damage-dealing spell you’ll get, so use it well. While this is a concentration spell that lets you always know the location of your target, it deals enough damage that you can almost count it as a single-action spell.
- Detect Thoughts – Detecting thoughts is great whether you’re using it on your enemies, to learn rumors, or to find passwords. There’s a lot you can do with this spell if you put your mind to work.
- Borrowed Knowledge – You won’t be quite as tempted to use your portent rolls on ability checks if you can just dole out proficiency in skills when the situation calls for it.
We’ll take the Magic Initiate feat here so we can get access to Eldritch Blast. Before this point, we can use whatever damage-dealing cantrips we want to keep us mildly useful in combat.
You gain access to 3rd-level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Clairvoyance – This is an amazing way to survey surrounding areas. We can do this to gain information before rushing into a situation, or we can use it to spy on our enemies. Like most divination spells, its uses are only limited to our creativity.
- Fireball – Having a reliable damage-dealer like fireball is essential. We could choose any spell to fill this role, but with careful planning we can use Fireball to its maximum potential. We can also use our portent to save our allies from full damage as a last resort.
You gain access to 4th-level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Locate Creature – Whether you’re hunting down a creature, hiding from one, or trying to find a kidnapped ally, the ability to locate creatures is invaluable. All wizards should have this spell in their arsenal. As a 4th-level spell, it’s also great to cast it and get back 3rd-level slots for your Fireballs.
- Polymorph – If you can time a polymorph well and use your portent for extra help, you can shut down the biggest bad in most fights. Who needs damage dealing spells when the foe’s leader is a frog?
Here we’ll pick up Eldritch Adept. We’re going to use Armor of Shadows because it’s a miracle that our squishy wizard has survived this long, and we need all the help we can get.
You gain access to 5th-level spell slots. Good spells of this level to prepare are as follows:
- Rary’s Telepathic Bond – This spell creates a telepathic link between you and up to eight other creatures. There are so many uses for a spell like this in every single type of campaign.
- Scrying – This spell lets you spy on anyone who is on the same plane as you. It gets easier if you have more information about your target, which you can probably obtain from your other spells. This spell works best if you have some idea of when to use it.
- Contact Other Plane – This spell has a heavy drawback if you fail, but it’s worth it. The potential to have five questions unambiguously answered by a spirit or deity from another plane is a power that can be campaign-ending if you’re particularly clever.
You gain access to 6th-level spell slots.
Now we can start boosting our ability scores. We’ll start by just giving our Intelligence a +2.
You gain access to 7th-level spell slots.
You gain access to 8th-level spell slots.
We’ll give our Intelligence a +1 to boost up to 20, and we’ll give our Dexterity a +1 as well to get a bit more in the AC department.
You gain access to 9th-level spell slots.
If you make it this far, it would make a lot more sense to have multiclassed. But still, we can boost our Constitution up 2 points for whatever universe-ending fight is coming.
This subclass can definitely serve from multiclassing early on to gain some more combat capability.
We could make a build that combines us with another full caster and use their abilities, but it makes a lot more sense to go with the only other class that utilizes intelligence.
Multiclassing into artificer could mean creating a M.A.D. build that uses equal parts Intelligence and Strength, but we’re not going to do that.
Instead, we’re going to choose an artificer subclass that doesn’t rely on strength at all.
The Battle Smith Artificer gives us proficiency with martial weapons. It also lets us use intelligence instead of strength or dexterity for attack and damage rolls we make with our magical weapons.
To get to this, we’ll have to take three levels in artificer.
This has a minimal impact on our progression, but it gives us a huge increase in our ability to actually fight.
Did I mention that the battle smith has a steel defender that can fight alongside us and even use its reaction to impose disadvantage on attacks made against us?
Yeah, that’s a fun little addition we get.
The benefits don’t stop there. Because we’re multiclassing into artificer, we get access to their artificer infusions, which we can use to make a bunch of magical equipment.
We also get proficiency in light armor, medium armor, and shields.
All together, this three-level dip gives us armor, weapons, new spells, and great features, and we don’t even have to worry about missing out on any features or dedicating ASIs to anything other than Intelligence and Constitution.
The only thing left to do is figure out when to take these three levels.
Obviously, we’ll want to take the first two levels in wizard to get to the divination subclass first. Once we’ve done that, it really depends on how well we’re surviving.
If we’re doing a bad job of making it to the end of each combat, our third level can be a level in the artificer class. This makes a lot of sense because we won’t be foreseeing anything if we die early on in the game.
As long as we aim to have all three levels in artificer by 10th level, we should be set pretty well to deal with the higher-CR monsters that we’ll encounter in third-tier play.
The Divination wizard is an excellent subclass that has the potential to be one of the most exciting characters you’ll ever play.
If you have at least some experience with 5e D&D or the willingness to really hone your strategy, you’re in for a great time.
As always, happy adventuring.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.