Magic Swords in 5e: At Every Tier of Play, Beginner to Legendary

© Wizards of the Coast by Zara Alfonso

Everybody loves swords! From wooden swords to lightsabers, if you’re reading this article, it’s a safe bet you’ve messed around with some sort of sabre. 

As perhaps the most dominant weapon through all of human history, it’s no surprise that swords are the go-to weapon for many martial combatants of D&D. 

So, today we’re going to be talking about magical swords, powerful blades to be wielded by the mightiest of warriors. 

What is a sword?

Some magic swords are specified as being longswords or greatswords, but others merely say “any sword.” This is bound to lead to some confusion, so I’m just going to specify what counts as a sword.

Longswords, short swords, greatswords, rapiers, and scimitars all count as swords, although you’ll be hard-pressed to find that in the official rules anywhere.

Jeremy Crawford did confirm this in the sage advice column on twitter if you’re still uneasy about accepting things that don’t have “sword” in their name.

What to expect in this article:

  • Iconic magical swords
  • Magical swords for each tier of play
  • Tips and tricks on how to slash like a pro

Iconic Swords

Some swords are just the things of legends. Even novice D&D players have heard the names of these blades whispered around the table. Before we take you through the tiers of play, let’s take a quick stop at the magical sword’s hall of fame. 

Blackrazor (greatsword, legendary,  requires attunement with a non-lawful character)

This sentient blade lives to devour souls, even its wielder’s if it isn’t fed. Luckily, you’ll be able to feed it with plenty of souls since it gives you a +3 to attack and damage rolls and allows you to sense the presence of Tiny or larger creatures within 60 feet of you.

You’ll also gain temporary hit points equal to the max hit points of a creature that you slay with Blackrazor, which stacks by the way. So you’ll be pretty hard to kill once you start killing.

Not to mention that while you have these temporary hit points you’ll have advantage on all attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws.

What’s not to love about this evil sword? Just feed it and keep it quiet so you can go about your business as usual.

Vorpal Sword (any sword that deals slashing damage, legendary,  requires attunement)

Taken straight from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” poem, this +3 sword is rather adept at lopping off heads. If you roll a 20 on an attack against a creature that has one, well… off with their head! 

Naturally, if a creature can’t survive without its head it’ll die. If it’s immune to slashing damage, has legendary actions to stop you, or perhaps has more heads than you’ve slashed off, that creature also takes an extra 6d8 slashing damage. Did I mention this blade ignores resistances to slashing damage?

Holy Avenger (any sword, legendary, requires attunement by a paladin)

This +3 sword basically has a built-in smite when dealing with undead and fiends. Whenever you hit one you’ll be dealing an extra 2d10 radiant damage.

You also get to hold the sword in the air He-man style to create an aura that gives you and your allies advantage on saving throws against spells and magical effects.

The aura’s distance is a 10-foot radius until you reach 17 levels in paladin, at which point it goes out to 30 feet.

Sun Blade (longsword, rare, requires attunement)

While not actually a sword of legendary rarity, this is definitely a sword that is loved by all. What appears to be just the hilt of a longsword ignites into a magic radiant blade.

Like a lightsaber or a cherub’s weapon of choice, this sword of light strikes true with righteous energy.

Mechanically, this is a great sword. As a +2 longsword with finesse, it’s something your cleric and rogue might just end up fighting over. Naturally, this radiant weapon also deals an extra 1d8 to undead, a healthy bonus in any situation.

DM Pro Tip: Item Requirements

Listen to me very closely. Item requirements are a suggestion. Typically well thought out suggestions, but suggestions nevertheless. Think of these magic swords as enchantments. Any weapon could have the enchantment on it, these ones are just typically found on swords. 

It’s a real drag when a DM, or a player for that matter, gets hung up on “That item can only be a greatsword.” Let your rogue have a Sun Blade rapier, or make something into a bow so your archer can feel useful again.

Everything in all of WotC source books and rules are carefully thought out suggestions, but you as the DM has the right (and hopefully the creativity) to be flexible with what your players want.

Early Game Magical Swords

The first few levels of the game aren’t going to bring you the best weapons, but that’s not the point. The point is that the ones you get to play with while you’re getting to know your character still make you feel like a badass.

Here are a few swords that can do just that:

  • Sword of Vengeance (any sword, uncommon, requires attunement) – I love me a good cursed blade. This weapon harbors a vengeful spirit that forces you to continue attacking a creature that deals you damage until one of you drops to 0 hit points. In a world where everyone and their cousin has a +1 sword, why not get one with a bit of excitement. Plus, this gives you a chance to have a sword that adds to more than just one pillar of the D&D experience.
  • Shatterspike (longsword, uncommon, requires attunement) – This blade is great for getting rid of nasty items or causing some mischief at the table. Peculiar enough for a longsword, it automatically crits when you make an attack against an object. The character who wields this in its respective adventure (Sunless Citadel) actually uses it to break their foes’ weapons. 

While this can create some work on the DM’s side, it’s an amazing tool to get players thinking creatively about how to interact with different items. 

  • Elemental Sword Homebrew (shortsword, uncommon, requires attunement) – You know I’ve gotta give you some homebrew to keep it exciting. Inspired by the Elemental Gem item, this sword harnesses the power of an elemental. 

At the base of the hilt lies a gem which turns the sword’s damage type to that of the respective elemental. Additionally, breaking the gem as an action releases the elemental, as if you had cast the spell Conjure Elemental.

Blue SapphireAir Elemental
Yellow DiamondEarth Elemental
Red CorundumFire Elemental
EmeraldWater Elemental

Mid Game Magical Swords

Most of the action takes place in the middle of a campaign. We’re talking roughly 6th to 15th level, which is a decent chunk. It’s where a character will really build a bond with a weapon, so don’t be afraid to give really cool swords to players who’ve earned them.

A big rule of thumb in this stage, and moving on, is to make your players work for what they get. Not every magic item has to be the result of a huge sprawling quest line, but these also aren’t things that you can find if you just stroll up to a blacksmith’s shop.

Engaging players in all three pillars of play means that once they get that awesome flame tongue it will mean something to them. 

Balance is important, but you can always change that by planning your encounters differently. The most important thing is that you and your players are having fun, and getting to do the things you want to do.

As for the players, well… have fun with these bad boys.

  • Flame Tongue (any sword, rare, requires attunement) – For those who thought the sunblade wasn’t “on fire” enough, try this on for size. Speak it’s command word and it bursts into flames until you tell it to stop, dealing an extra 2d6 fire damage when you hit. Perfect for the player in your life that thinks more things should be burning but doesn’t have time to memorize complex effects.
  • Polymorph Blade (any sword, very rare, requires attunement) – Getting a critical hit is always amazing, but how much cooler would it be if when you rolled a 20 on an attack roll you transformed a creature into something new. Well that’s what this blade does. Of course, it is a cursed weapon, so if you roll a 1 the same thing might happen to you. Is it worth the risk? Definitely. Can a T-Rex show up? Hell yes.
  • Sword of Sharpness (any sword that deals slashing damage, very rare, requires attunement) – Here’s a sword that’s made for lopping off body parts at will, Black Knight beware. While I believe any character should be able to try chopping limbs if they get a good enough roll, it’s nice to have a sword that locks down the mechanic. This automatically deals an extra 14 slashing damage on crits (on top of normal crit damage) and then you get to roll another 20. If you roll that famed second 20 that target is losing a limb, with extra effects determined at your DM’s discretion.
  • Weapon of Slaying (any sword, rare or very rare, requires attunement) – Weapons with devoted enemies are common enough throughout 5e. Dragon slayer, giant slayer, and corpse slayer are all big names I could’ve put in this article. Instead, I’ll outline the concept for you, so you can dish out favored weapons that are right for your campaign. 

Essentially, these are +1 or +2 magic swords that deal extra damage when you hit the specific type. Some might have added effects like knocking a creature prone (giant slayer) or giving a creature disadvantage against certain effects (corpse slayer).

Somewhere from one to three d6 should be the extra damage, and that really all depends on how meaty the favored creatures tend to be.

Spend some time thinking about what might really help your players that won’t unbalance the game entirely. Give a fiend some sort of damage vulnerability for a turn, limit an elemental’s movement, whatever seems fitting, just put some thought into it and you’ll be fine.

End Game Swords

The last few levels aren’t a reality for every campaign. Some just don’t go that far. Sometimes life gets in the way. For whatever reason, just getting this far is an accomplishment, and the weapons that are dished out here are proof enough.

Quite a few that belong in this section are already featured above for their status as 5e icons, but don’t let that fool you, any sword mentioned in this tier is a godsend.

Luck Blade (any sword, legendary, requires attunement)

Here’s a sword that’s sure to get your players excited. You might think it’s weak because it’s only a +1 blade, but its other bonuses make it one of the most valuable swords in the game.

Once a day you can reroll an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check, a solid bonus that players often pick up with the Lucky feat.

Where this really shines is in the gems along its hilt. It has 1d4 – 1 charges, which I like to represent with gemstones like the picture in the DMG suggests. These charges can be used to cast one of the most incredible spells in the game, Wish.

Giving your players wishes is like the shiniest get out of jail free card, one of the most interesting opportunities for roleplay out there. The fact that a fighter could carry around a sword with 3 wishes creates a riveting layer of decision-making whenever difficult situations arise.

Hazirawn (greatsword, legendary, requires attunement)

Hazirawn is a sentient blade that is occupied by the soul of a once-great (if neutral evil) military commander. Even unattuned this is a +1 blade that deals an extra 1d6 necrotic damage.

If you are attuned, it gets more exciting as a +2 blade dealing an extra 2d6 instead. It also has 4 charges a day to cast spells, of which you can cast Detect Magic (1 charge), Detect Evil and Good (1 charge), or Detect Thoughts (2 charges). Perfect for the tactical player that always wants to know what’s going on.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of this blade is that once you’ve hit a creature with this blade they can’t regain hit points for 1 minute. Keep it up against a single target and they’ll have no chance, especially while you’re bringing extra damage to the table.

Greater Silver Sword (greatsword, legendary, requires attunement by a creature that has psionic abilities)

Okay, very specific on the requirements, but the mechanics of the sword don’t really need psionic abilities, so let’s call it a soft suggestion. Maybe hint heavily at a player to pick up the Telekinetic feat when they get the chance before dishing it out. 

Anyways, this +3 sword gives you advantage on all saving throws against all the mental abilities and resistance to psychic damage. It can also sever an astral body’s cord which tethers it to the material plane if you happen to be doing some astral fighting.

Playing with Swords

This is nowhere near a full list of magical swords available in 5e. Not to mention the fact that the full list itself will continue to grow with time.

What you’ve read here is a handpicked selection of magical items that exemplify what it means to have a magic weapon in Dungeons & Dragons. 

Obviously, we want to deal damage, but there’s more to it than that. We want a weapon that makes us feel powerful, like the main character of our adventure. Even at early levels you can give your character something more than just a bland +1 sword. You can give them abilities that fit the tier of play that they’re in.

Players, with all that being said, magic items aren’t a right. You get plenty of amazing abilities and if your DM doesn’t deem it fit to dish you out a Holy Avenger at 3rd level, you should probably listen.

When you do get that amazing weapon it’ll be worth it, and you’ll have something incredible that sets your character apart from everyone else. A magical item isn’t just a scribbled note in your inventory, it’s a memory.

As always, happy adventuring!