Path of Wild Magic Barbarian Subclass Guide 

Last Updated on January 22, 2023

No plan — no matter how well conceived, contrived, or executed — survives contact with the enemy. 

This is especially true when the enemy happens to be a 6-foot-tall, bloodthirsty, axe-wielding maniac. Add to this the fact that the murderous axe-enthusiast in question keeps teleporting at unexpected intervals, shooting beams of light out of their eyes, and summoning confused fey spirits who explode a few seconds later like grenades, and you’ve got some idea of the experience of any Dungeons & Dragons 5e game master who’s tried to run a boss fight with a Path of Wild Magic Barbarian in the party. 

Seriously, if I had a gold piece for every time a cult leader’s mustache-twirling monologue was cut brutally short by a teleporting Mr. Universe impersonator who was just as surprised to be there as the poor high priest, I’d have two gold pieces. That isn’t very much, admittedly, but it’s enough to make the rest of the cults in the region start investing in antimagic shields. But I digress. 

Today, we’re going to be giving you a rundown on the most bonkers, out-there barbarian Primal Path. We’re going to look at the Path of Wild Magic, a barbarian subclass that takes what is otherwise a very straightforward, predictable class and turns it into the kind of edge-of-your-seat excitement that can only be matched by an evening centered around the combination of a blindfold, a Roomba, a roll of duct tape, and a very sharp knife. 

We’re going to look at how this subclass works, its strengths, its weaknesses, and how to get the most out of playing a Path of Wild Magic barbarian in your next D&D 5e campaign. 

What Is a Path of Wild Magic Barbarian in DnD 5e?

Barbarians who are naturally attuned to the energies of the Feywild and upper planes or are affected by wild magic surges walk the Path of Wild Magic. When these warriors unleash the rage inside them, they become conduits for the wild magic all around them. 

A raging Wild Magic barbarian manifests strange, unpredictable effects, which are not completely under their control. Still, the force of their rage shapes these effects, empowering their combat abilities and making them dangerous, unpredictable foes. 

As a Path of Wild Magic barbarian grows in strength and experience, they learn to better tap into their connection to wild magic, replenishing their allies’ spell slots, making their attacks more potent, and even gaining some control over the randomness of their wild magic manifestations. 

Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System

In our ongoing series of 5e class guides, we use the following color-rating scheme:

  • RedC 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.
  • GreenB Tier. Solid but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or Green can be very good but only in very specific situations.  
  • BlueA Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective. 
  • PurpleS 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.

Path of Wild Magic Barbarian Subclass Features 

Let’s begin by taking a look at the features that distinguish the Path of Wild Magic Barbarian. Note that we’re just going to be looking at the subclass features unique to the Wild Magic barbarian. If you want to read our full class guide to the barbarian, click here.

Magic Awareness

3rd-level Path of Wild Magic feature

As an action, you can tap into your natural affinity for magic, detecting its presence and nature. Until the end of your next turn, you learn the location of any spell or magic item within 60 feet of you that isn’t blocked by total cover. When you learn a spell’s location, you also learn which school of magic it belongs to. 

You can use this feature a number of times per long rest equal to your character’s Proficiency Bonus. 

In effect, this is a better version of the Detect Magic spell that can identify specific instances of magic and magical items, although this is slightly more susceptible to being blocked by walls, doors, and other obstacles than the spell. 

Still, it’s basically an incredibly cheap counter to magical invisibility and spells like disguise self, polymorph, and other shapeshifting abilities. You won’t know exactly what the “kindly old man” is up to, but you’ll know that the fact he’s glowing with illusion magic means something is definitely afoot. All in all, it’s a useful information-gathering tool that adds dimension to a class that’s usually all about combat (not to mention the fact it complements the barbarian’s natural trap-finding abilities). 

Wild Surge

3rd-level Path of Wild Magic feature

When you enter rage, you unleash the wild magic inside you. Roll on the Wild Magic table below to determine the effect produced. 

If the effect in question requires a saving throw, the DC is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + Constitution modifier. 

Wild Magic

This is the real meat of this subclass — a wholly unique wild magic table that feels totally evocative of the Wild Magic Barbarian. While randomized, the effects are all positive (in stark contrast to the much larger wild magic table that the Wild Magic Sorcerer rolls on) and tend to be quite powerful. Obviously, you won’t have any real degree of control over what happens when you rage until you reach higher levels, so going into a combat situation with a plan that’s reliant on any particular result is probably going to result in failure. 

Therefore, the trait that every player needs to learn and exemplify when playing this character is adaptability. Can you suddenly teleport at the end of every turn? Time to go throw yourself around the map. Is your weapon suddenly a magically infused throwing star? Time to hang back and take down foes from afar. 

Bolstering Magic

6th-level Path of Wild Magic feature

As an action, you touch yourself or another creature and infuse it with a burst of wild magical energy. It gains one of the following benefits: 

  • For 10 minutes, the creature can roll a d3 whenever making an attack roll or an ability check and add the number rolled to the d20 roll.
  • Roll a d3. The creature regains one expended spell slot, the level of which equals the number rolled or lower (the creature’s choice). Once a creature receives this benefit, that creature can’t receive it again until after a long rest.

You can take this action a number of times per long rest equal to your proficiency bonus.

I cannot overstate how useful it can be to give yourself either a permanent 1-3 bonus on all attack rolls and ability checks or to give an ally potentially a 3rd-level spell back. If they use that slot to cast something like fireball, that’s a ton of what essentially amounts to free damage. 

This obviously becomes a lot less useful as you level up, but it’s still really nice to have. 

Unstable Backlash

10th-level Path of Wild Magic feature

Immediately after taking damage or failing a saving throw while you are raging, you can use your reaction to roll on the Wild Magic table and immediately produce the effect rolled, which then replaces the currently active Wild Magic effect you are manifesting. 

This is where this subclass starts to not only feel truly wild and chaotic but also like you’re gaining a level or real control over that chaos. Essentially, you’re putting your powers on shuffle and allowing yourself to cycle through effects until you find something you like. 

Controlled Surge

14th-level Path of Wild Magic feature

When you roll on the Wild Magic table, you can now roll twice and choose the effect you prefer. Also, if you roll the same result on both dice, you can instead choose any effect from the table. 

Given you’ll have the option to reroll your wild magic result as often as once a turn, Controlled Surge basically means that, in a fight that goes on long enough, you’ll be able to land on a particular wild magic surge with a few turns of course correction. 

This is especially important as some Wild Surge effects transition better than others into higher-level play. 1d6 force damage — the most common damage effect found on the table — is genuinely impactful at lower levels, but by high-tier play, it’s next to useless unless you’re trying to trigger a concentration check. Meanwhile, being able to teleport or potentially blind an enemy every round is going to stay relevant all the way up to level 20. 

Final Thoughts: Why Play a Wild Magic Barbarian?

Much like the Wild Magic sorcerer, the Path of Wild Magic Barbarian is ideal for players who like a little chaos in their lives (not to mention enjoy inflicting that chaos on their enemies). Unlike the wild magic sorcerer, however, a Wild Magic barbarian isn’t going to have a 1-in-50 chance of blowing themselves and their entire party to pieces in a fiery inferno

Think of it like a soft introduction to the wonderful world of wild magic. You get plenty of opportunities for shenanigans, but you probably won’t bring about your own party’s downfall in the process. Also, as you grow in levels, your increasing control over exactly how your wild surge manifests is deeply satisfying. 

My only complaint is that the damage doesn’t scale, meaning that options like the exploding flumph spirit and the revenge damage become way less useful as you reach higher levels. Maybe if your damage was a d6 + proficiency bonus it might negate the issue, but I suppose you’re still smacking people multiple times per turn with a great big axe, so damage probably isn’t your primary concern. 

Regardless, the Path of Wild Magic remains one of the most run, flavorful, and interesting barbarian subclasses and can make one of the most simple classes in the game feel fresh, exciting, and downright weird. 

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