Metamagic in 5e: Sorcerers can do what?! Are These 4 the Best?

Last Updated on November 18, 2022

Sorcerers! In D&D they’re more than just wizards without hats.

Sorcerers of the Forgotten Realms and the other worlds we explore in 5e are spellcasters that gain their magical abilities from a variety of different methods, either genetically or through exposure to some impressive magical force or entity.

No matter where a sorcerer’s power comes from, one thing stays the same for any member of this D&D class – their ability to use Metamagic.

In today’s article, we’ll be discussing the class feature, the options that are available, and just how useful it really is.

What Is Metamagic in 5e?

Metamagic is an ability that allows sorcerers to manipulate spells they cast to better fit the situation.

This 3rd-Level sorcerer feature allows the spellcasters to use sorcery points to use one of a variety of metamagic options as they cast a spell.

The feature lets them learn two of the 10 metamagic options at 3rd-Level, a third option at 10th-Level, and a final option at 4th-Level. 

What Are Metamagic Options? (An Overview)

Metamagic options are the different ways in which a sorcerer can twist their spells. Each option has a specific sorcery point cost.

Additionally, only one option can be used on a spell unless otherwise specified. The options are as follows:

Careful Spell. Cost: 1 Sorcery Point

Select a number of creatures up to your Charisma modifier to automatically save on a spell you cast that requires a saving throw.

Distant Spell. Cost: 1 Sorcery Point

Double the range of a spell with 5 feet or greater, or you can make a spell with the range of touch have a range of 30 feet.

Empowered Spell. Cost: 1 Sorcery Point

Reroll a number of damage dice up to your Charisma modifier when you roll damage for a spell; you must use the new rolls.

You may use this option if you have already used another Metamagic Option on a spell. 

Extended Spell. Cost: 1 Sorcery Point

Double the duration of a spell with a duration of 1 minute or longer to a maximum of 24 hours.

Heightened Spell. Cost: 3 Sorcery Points

You impose disadvantage on the first saving throw that one target of your spell makes to resist the effects of a spell. 

Quickened Spell. Cost: 2 Sorcery Points

You may cast a spell with the casting time of one action as a bonus action.

Seeking Spell. Cost: 2 Sorcery Points

You may reroll a spell attack roll; you must use the new roll. You can use Seeking Spell even if you have already used a different Metamagic option during the casting of the spell.

Subtle Spell. Cost: 1 Sorcery Point

You can cast a spell without using any verbal or somatic components.

Transmuted Spell. Cost: 1 Sorcery Point

When you cast a spell that deals a type of damage from the following list, you can change that damage type to one of the other listed types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, and thunder.

Twinned Spell. Cost: * Sorcery Point 

When you cast a spell that targets only one creature and doesn’t have a range of self, you can spend *a number of sorcery points equal to the spell’s level to target a second creature in range with the same spell (* 1 sorcery point if the spell is a cantrip). 

To be eligible for Twinned Spell, a spell must be incapable of targeting more than one creature at the spell’s current level.

What Are Sorcery Points in 5e?

Before we get into discussing the ways you’re going to want to utilize these metamagic options, it’s important that we understand sorcery points.

Sorcery points are a pool of energy that sorcerers gain at 2nd-Level that allow them to activate many of their abilities, including metamagic.

At 2nd-Level, a sorcerer only has 2 sorcery points, but they gain one for each level they take in sorcerer.

Naturally, these become a very important commodity for this class, and keeping track of them is just as important as keeping track of your spell slots.

In fact, sorcerers have an ability called Flexible Casting which allows them to convert spell slots into sorcery points, and vice versa.

When converting a spell slot into sorcery points, you add a number of sorcery points to your pool equal to the level of the spell.

The inverse is a bit more complicated. You can only create up to a 5th-Level spell slot with sorcery points. Below is a table which shows how many points are needed to create each level of spell slot.

Creating Spell Slots

Spell Slot LevelSorcery Point Cost
1st2
2nd3
3rd5
4th6
5th7

In addition to Flexible Casting and Metamagic, sorcery points can be used for the optional class feature Magical Guidance (1 point to reroll ability checks) and a few subclass features, such as the Divine Soul’s Empowered Healing feature. 

Using sorcery points efficiently means taking careful consideration of all of the ways in which you can use them.

A Divine Soul sorcerer may be more inclined to save their sorcery points for healing, while an Aberrant Mind sorcerer might focus on casting their psionic spells with them.

Be sure to study your subclass before choosing metamagic options because results will vary.

Which Metamagic Options To Choose

What are the best metamagic options? It’s a question asked all over the place that is a bit difficult to answer.

The easy, copout answer is that empowered, quickened, twinned, and subtle stand above the rest.

The more nuanced answer, and the one I’m here to back up, is that each metamagic option supports a different style of play, and when used effectively can be invaluable.

Before we just jump into the in-depth discussion of how to be effective with metamagic, let’s discuss efficiency.

You’re only going to get four metamagic options in your entire career as a sorcerer unless you pick up the Metamagic Adept feat in place of an ASI.

Since you don’t learn your third option until level 10 and your fourth option comes in at 17th-Level, our first two are by far our most important. 

Sorcerous Versatility

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything improved on many classes by giving them more agency through customization options.

One of the ways TCoE improved the sorcerer class was by allowing them to change out one of their metamagic options whenever they take an ASI or feat. 

This really lets you as a player explore what works and doesn’t work for your character.

Instead of waiting 7 levels to incorporate a new metamagic, you can just replace one that isn’t working for you at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, or 19th-level.

Our first two metamagic options should really be abilities that work with the spells we have at 3rd-Level. We also need to consider the scarcity of sorcery points in early play.

If we want to make the most out of the small pool we don’t want to be jumping right into a 3 cost ability and wiping out our points whenever we want to use it. 

As we level up, we can start putting a lot more thought into how many points vs. spell slots we want to use up.

A very focused sorcerer might only use one or two 3rd-Level spells and convert the rest of their slots into points to augment them.

There are a lot of options, so anticipating what will work for your character is really important. This doesn’t have to be a part of your creation process, but it should at least be something you think about as you play.

Alright, onto the fun stuff. Below I’m going to get nitty and gritty with each of the available metamagic options in 5e. Think of it as a mix between a review and a how-to.

Careful Spell

Careful Spell allows you to save your allies from AOE (area of effect) spells that you’re dishing out. In theory.

In reality, most AOE spells that you cast will say something along the effect of “if a target fails their save, they take x damage, and on a successful save a target takes half damage.”

In the case of the spell we all wish was a bit more careful, Fireball, that’s still 4d6 damage on a successful save.

If you want to make effective use out of this metamagic option, you’ll need spells that only deal damage or impose a condition on a failed save.

These are painfully few, but spells like Earth Tremor will knock creatures prone while dealing some damage, and keeping your allies standing can be a huge bonus.

The few spells I’ve found that fit this extremely specific niche are:

  • Ice Knife
  • Storm Sphere
  • Earth Tremor

That’s not a lot, and they’re certainly not powerful enough spells to justify taking this metamagic option. However, you can still use this with other more harmful saving throw AOE spells. 

My not-so-hot take on this metamagic option is that it’s not an excuse to launch a Fireball or a Cone of Cold into an area that is going to hit multiple of your allies.

This is not a replacement for good tactics. Instead, it should be chosen if you are going to be using a lot of AOE spells and you need a last resort ready to go.

Making the tough call to hit your frontline barbarian or fighter with a big blast can at least be a little easier when you know for a fact they’ll only take half damage.

Distant Spell

This is the tactician’s dream. For just one sorcery point you can increase the range of your spells, quite dramatically I might add.

Doubling the range of a ranged spell is simple, it doesn’t take a professional to see why being further away from your targets can help you. For those who don’t see it, it’s harder for them to hit you.

Moving on to the cool stuff. You can change the distance of a spell with the range of touch to 30 feet. That is mighty snazzy.

Most touch spells are buffs, although some do deal damage or have other negative effects. Think about being able to use Shocking Grasp on a creature that’s a whole 6 squares away from you on the battlefield. 

Back to the buffs though, one of the hardest things for a support sorcerer is getting up close and personal with the enemy so you can support your frontline melee combatants.

Normally you’re going to have to buff up as you really get started in combat. Now, you can save those spell slots for when you’re needed – maybe cast invisibility on an ally rogue when they’re trying to hide.

What you do with this is your choice, and that’s what this brings you, choices. If you’re not into heavy tactics and just want to be able to make a spell go really far, then sure, this is for you too. 

NOTE: This does not increase the area of spells, just the range.

Also… you can make Eldritch Blast go really far with the right feats or multiclassing combo. When I say really far though, I do mean far, too far to even be realistic, but so be it, it’s cool.

Check out this article for more on that.

Empowered Spell

Now, I’m not really tier ranking these options, but this is definitely S-tier. In a game where a good majority of mechanical decisions are decided by the roll of the dice, getting to reroll them is always a bonus. 

Three reasons that you should almost always pick this up are as follows: 

  • You can reroll any number of damage dice. Think of an upcast Fireball at 9th-Level with 14d6 being thrown.
  • You can use this after you have rolled damage. This lets you really hold onto it until it’s going to give you the most bang for your buck.
  • You can use this with other metamagic options! 

You’re not ensuring max damage or anything, but as anyone who plays Yahtzee knows, getting to leave your strong dice out and rerolling the rest is going to give you a huge total.

This is a metamagic option that can really be used on just about any damage-dealing spell and is going to scale so well as you level up. And it’s always going to cost you just one sorcery point.

Extended Spell

This is an interesting option that you’ll probably not want to use in the midst of combat. Now, here’s why.

Most combat encounters don’t last much longer than a minute, which is the minimum length of time that you can increase with this metamagic option. 

More than likely, the spells you’ll want to extend are out of combat spells; utility spells, if you will.

Things like Alter Self, which might be able to help you infiltrate a situation for longer than an hour, or illusory magic like Silent Image, which you might need to stay in place for more than 10 minutes. 

The sweet spot for me is using this on a spell that has somewhere between an hour and 8 hours of regular duration. 

An important thing to remember is that this doesn’t make you any better at concentration. Increasing the length of a concentration spell is probably something that you’ll want to avoid, lest it become a burden. 

This is a great option for any sorcerer whose spell list is full of party face spells, long-term buffs, or any duration spells. 

Heightened Spell

I don’t like this metamagic ability. You’re spending 3 sorcery points to maybe make one target fail one saving throw. Was there enough italics to get my point across here?

I so desperately want this to be a good metamagic option, but I can’t justify suggesting this to anyone. 

If a creature…

  1. has a good bonus for their saving throw… 
  2. happens to get good rolls… 
  3. succeeds on a later save… 
  4. has a legendary resistance… 

then this was a complete waste of 3 sorcery points.

For reference, you could make an entire 2nd-Level spell instead of using this, or roll incredible damage with Empowered Spell three times.

The only reason you might need this is if you really need to do everything you can to cast some sort of Hold spell or Planar Binding, or something of the sort against a very powerful creature.

At the point in time where your party is handling threats in this way, let’s just hope that you or another party member has other abilities to help in some way.

Quickened Spell

So we have to talk about just how action economy works for spellcasters.

On your turn, you can take your movement, make a free action, make an action, and make a bonus action. Movement and free actions aren’t super important here, so we’ll move to how those actions and bonus actions work.

If you cast a spell (1st level or higher) as a bonus action, you can take any of the standard actions (Dash, Dodge, Hide, etc.) on your turn, or you can cast a cantrip with the casting time of one action.

You could also use this to quicken a cantrip you want to take and make a different action on your turn. 

So this is pretty cool and can let you do extra things on your turn. Really, this is like giving you two turns.

This can be useful if you need to make one of those standard combat actions or if you just want to cast a few really powerful spells in one turn.

Quickened spell is the metamagic option that allows you a sorcerer to feel like the fighter ripping off extra actions full of multiple attacks (and probably deal more damage in the process).

Quickening a leveled spell and then casting a powerful cantrip, especially if you also metamagic that, will net you some serious damage output and more than a few cheers from your party. 

This awesome video puts this on display wonderfully, quickening an upcast Scorching Ray and then using a Firebolt cantrip for the main action of the turn to decimate an unsuspected (and unsuspecting) foe. 

Seeking Spell

This is a relatively new one, and I don’t have firsthand experience with it, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. I mean, you get to reroll if you miss. That’s pretty great, but for 2 sorcery points, I’m a bit surprised that it doesn’t guarantee a hit. 

I wouldn’t really use this on any 1st-Level spell, because I could just buy back the slot for that amount of points.

Since rerolling is just as good as your dice feel like treating you, I’d be hesitant to take this all, although it is like “advantage when necessary.” 

In my opinion, there are better ways to improve your chances of success and better ways to use your sorcery points.

Subtle Spell

This is wildly overpowered if, and only if, your DM cares about somatic and verbal components. They should, so we’re going to operate as if.

There are barely any spells that you can’t use this with, and it allows you to be sneaky with just about all of them.

Let’s say you’re trying to convince a guard to let you and your party inside of a fortress.

If you cast Charm Person, the other guards nearby might very easily notice you waving your arms and whispering incantations under your breath, tipping them off to the fact that their friend is no longer as impartial as he once was.

And boom, initiative roll. With a subtle spell that guard is charmed, and no one is any the wiser. 

You can also use this to unleash spells without anyone knowing where they’re coming from, especially if you happen to be invisible.

Transmuted Spell

This is a fun one that comes across as a less-versatile version of the order of scribes’ awakened spellbook, but it is certainly nice if you’re a sorcerer looking to deal the right damage type at the right time.

It’s also excellent if you’re in the mood for dealing one type of damage consistently, perhaps if you picked up the Elemental Adept feat?

That kind of sums it up, either you use this to change spells to your Elemental Adept’s chosen damage type or you switch a spell to be able to dodge around a resistance or an immunity.

Both of these options make for really powerful and tactically minded sorcerers. 

If you’re upset that you can’t change a spell to force damage, tough luck; the writers at WotC understand how broken that would be (and yet somehow let Order of Scribes do it anyway?). 

Twinned Spell

The requirements to this spell are very important to understand. A spell must not be capable of targeting more than one creature at the spell’s current level.

This means that you can’t twin any spells with an area of effect or any other spells that already have the potential to hit multiple targets.

Still, this is incredibly powerful. The one thing that is rough about this is that the cost to twin is the same as the spell’s level.

Likely, you’ll want to focus on twinning lower leveled spells for the most part, and maybe on rare occasions break out the big double guns.

There are only a few here that I personally wouldn’t take or recommend, but even those could be useful in niche scenarios/builds.

When you’re building your character, remember to consider what the point of your subclass is, the role you want to play in the party, and the spells you want to be casting. These should help you choose the right four for you.

My final note is to choose low-cost metamagic options at 3rd level and have fun with them.

If you don’t like them you can switch them out at your next level and try on a whole new playstyle, but it’s so important to learn conservation when you only have 3 sorcery points every long rest.

Then, by the time you’re rocking more than 10 points you’ll be using them like a pro.

As always, happy adventuring!