Last Updated on January 22, 2023
The forces of elemental nature have always had a powerful influence on the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons. Spellcasters often manipulate the elements in some way. The main cosmologies treat the elemental planes as building blocks for the material plane we focus on. I mean, even dragons, half the name of the game, tend to be masters of their own specific element.
When it comes to characters though, few archetypes exist that focus solely on elemental mastery. Sure, the “definitely not Aang” Monk (Way of the Four Elements) seems to have the earth, air, fire, and water bases covered all on its own, but that’s not a great example of an iconic 5e character. It’s a subclass that lacks focus and can be hard to manage.
So, it’s no surprise that the 5e game designers have entertained the idea of a more focused subclass, one with a clear goal that truly feels like a master of their chosen element.
Today, we’re talking about a piece of Unearthed Arcana (playtest material) known as the Stone Sorcerer. This subclass never made it to the published pages of 5e, but it’s a concept that deserves to be explored.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the merits of the UA subclass and how to build a character that utilizes its features for an optimized build. We’ll also dive into why this subclass didn’t make the cut and what WotC could’ve done to make it more playable in 5e.
Stone Sorcery (UA) Sorcerer Subclass Guide
What Is Stone Sorcery?
Stone sorcery is a sorcerous origin that provides Sorcerers with a deep connection to earth magic. This isn’t a school of magic but rather a collection of spells and concepts that relate to the plane of elemental earth. This loose definition allows a number of features to be considered for the Sorcerer that normally wouldn’t be part of its design.
Earth magic could really mean anything, but the designers of this playtest material decided on two key components to focus on: a hardy resolve and combat. While the lore of this subclass, a bloodline influenced by the powerful dao or other natives of the plane of elemental earth, might suggest a sort of “earth bender” character, the features point us in the direction of a combat Sorcerer.
Sure, it’s not what some might expect, but it makes a lot of sense. Stoneskin, a very obviously earth-focused spell, is all about protection. Earth elementals have the highest AC of any of the core elemental creatures and the highest HP by far.
Then, the UA provides this incredibly flavorful piece of text that really sells me on what it’s trying to do: “Your link to earth magic grants you extraordinary resilience, and stone sorcerers have a natural affinity for combat. A steel blade feels like a natural extension of your body, and sorcerers with this origin have a knack for wielding both shields and weapons.”
This subclass fills a niche that isn’t really explored, at least not for the Sorcerer specifically. Sure, there are other martial spellcasters but none that have the full array of benefits offered to the Sorcerer class.
What Is Earth Magic?
The big selling point of this subclass is probably its expanded spell list. The Stone Sorcerer receives an array of spells focusing on martial combat, none of which are typically available to the Sorcerer.
Unlike some other subclasses throughout 5e, the list of spells is optional. You can choose to take one of these spells whenever you learn a new spell instead of simply knowing the spells in addition to your normal progression.
This is a bit of a double-edged sword for our “Sword-cerers” to wield. On one hand, you’re getting a great selection of spells to utilize for this build’s very specific function. On the other hand, choosing all nine of these spells means you only end up with six unique spells to make the build your own.
Before we discuss just how good the spells really are and how many you will want to keep in your build, let’s actually talk about what they are.
For simplicity’s sake and so you’re not reading the same boring set of words every time, I’ve decided to say “smite spell” instead of “a concentration spell cast on a bonus action.” So yeah, there are a lot of smites here.
1st Level – Compelled Duel
A Wisdom saving throw spell that goads a target into attacking you and gives it disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you.
This concentration spell lasts for 1 minute and ends if you cast a spell that targets another creature, if a creature friendly to you targets or casts a harmful spell on your target, if you attack any other creature, or if you end your turn 30 feet away from your target.
1st Level – Searing Smite
A smite spell that allows you to deal an extra 1d6 fire damage on the target of your next melee attack after casting the spell. Additionally, the target takes 2d6 fire damage at the start of each of its turns until the spell ends or it fails a Constitution saving throw.
If the spell is upcast, the initial damage is increased by 1d6 for each level of spell slot beyond 1st.
1st Level – Thunderous Smite
A smite spell that allows you to deal 2d6 thunder damage to the target of your next successful melee weapon attack. Additionally, if the target is a creature, it must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be pushed 10 feet away from you and be knocked prone.
1st Level – Wrathful Smite
A smite spell that allows you to deal 1d6 psychic damage on your next successful melee weapon attack. Additionally, if the target is a creature, it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of you until the spell ends or until it uses an action to repeat and succeed on the saving throw.
2nd Level – Branding Smite
A smite spell that allows you to deal 2d6 radiant damage on your next successful melee weapon attack. The spell also causes an invisible target to become visible and causes any target to shed dim light in a 5-foot radius and be unable to become invisible until the spell ends.
If the spell is upcast, the initial damage is increased by 1d6 for each level of spell slot beyond 2nd.
2nd Level – Magic Weapon
Turn a nonmagical weapon into a magic weapon with a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls.
When upcast to 4th level or higher, the bonus increases to +2, and when upcast to 6th level or higher, the bonus increases to +3.
3rd Level – Blinding Smite
A smite spell that deals 3d8 radiant damage on your next successful melee weapon attack. A creature targeted by this spell must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the spell ends.
3rd Level – Elemental Weapon
Turns a nonmagical weapon into a magic weapon with a +1 bonus to attack rolls and deals an extra 1d4 damage of acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder.
When upcast to 5th or 6th level, the attack roll bonus increases to a +2, and the extra damage increases to 2d4. When upcast to 7th level or higher, the bonus damage increases to +3, and the extra damage increases to 3d4.
4th Level – Staggering Smite
A smite spell that deals 4d6 psychic damage on your next successful melee weapon attack. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks and be unable to take reactions until the end of its next turn.
Which Spells Should a Stone Sorcerer Use?
The decisions here are made extremely simple; you don’t need all nine spells to be a good Stone Sorcerer. Since six of the spells are smites, two create magical weapons, and one is a unique spell, you’ll probably only end up choosing three or four to end up with a rock-solid build.
Starting with smites, I would suggest only using one, but there is an argument that using two lends itself to diversity in your casting. Fortunately, Sorcerers can already change damage types with metamagic, so that isn’t the diversity we’re worried about. We simply want to choose the added ability of the smite that works for us.
Of all of these, searing is probably the best since it can deal continuous damage and be upcast for significant first-hit damage.
A close runner-up is blinding since the blinded condition gives attack rolls against an affected creature advantage and gives the affected creature disadvantage on attack rolls. It can’t be upcast, but that’s the price we pay for a decent secondary effect.
Don’t choose Wrathful Smite if you take Compelled Duel! You’re either focusing on keeping a creature near you or you’re trying to keep them off of you. With this build, you’re almost definitely trying to keep them up close and personal.
Another thing you’ll notice here is that all but the magical-weapon spells use your concentration. So, while Compelled Duel is an excellent spell for this subclass that can be used to great ends, it’s not typically what you’re going to want to burn a 1st-level spell slot on if it’s just going to be wasted in two turns for a smite to be cast.
This really leaves us with Magic Weapon and Elemental Weapon, and these two are perfect additions to the team. You can easily take Magic Weapon first and then swap it out for Elemental Weapon when you reach the appropriate Sorcerer level.
However! Magical weapons aren’t hard to come by, and you can probably quickly find something good enough to avoid using these spells entirely.
What have we learned? The spell list here is, on the surface, pretty great. Smites are awesome, and there’s a reason Paladins get almost exclusive access to them. They’re the perfect flavor of spell to boost a martial combatant’s goals.
Unfortunately, the spells all exist in direct conflict with each other. Rather than a spell list that lends itself to a plan of action in combat, this spell list is very simply a list of options. Grab one to three of them, sure, but don’t waste your limited known spells on what are essentially slight variations of the same spell.
Stone Sorcery Subclass Features
We’ve already jumped into this a bit with our overview of the spells, but fortunately, this subclass does have a lot more to offer than a conflicting expanded spell list.
1st Level: Bonus Proficiencies
You gain proficiency with shields, simple weapons, and martial weapons.
1st Level: Metal Magic
You gain access to the spells listed above. When your spellcasting feature lets you learn a Sorcerer spell of 1st level or higher, you can select one of these spells in place of a spell from the standard Sorcerer spell list. You must otherwise obey all other restrictions in choosing a spell, and the spell becomes a Sorcerer spell for you.
1st Level: Stone’s Durability
Your hit point maximum increases by 1 and increases by 1 again whenever you gain a level in this class.
As an action, you can gain a base AC of 13 + your Con modifier if you aren’t wearing armor. This lasts until you end it as a bonus action, you are incapacitated, or you don armor other than a shield.
6th Level: Stone Aegis
As a bonus action, you can grant a bonus to an allied creature you can see within 60 feet of you. Any bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage the target takes is reduced by 2 + your Sorcerer level divided by 4. This lasts for 1 minute, until you use it again, or until you are incapacitated.
Additionally, when a creature you can see within 60 feet of you hits the selected ally with a melee attack, you can use your reaction to teleport to an unoccupied space you can see within 5 feet of the attacker.
You can then make a melee weapon attack against the attacker. If it hits, you deal an extra 1d10 force damage, which is increased by 1d10 at 11th level and 17th level. You can only use the teleportation ability if you are on the same surface as the attacker.
14th Level: Stone’s Edge
When you cast a damage-dealing spell, choose one creature damaged by it. That creature takes extra force damage equal to half of your Sorcerer level. This feature can only be used once per casting of a spell.
18th Level: Earth Master’s Aegis
You can choose three allies to protect with Stone Aegis.
Is Stone Sorcery a Good Subclass?
The features provided to this subclass are honestly pretty lackluster, although they are trying to do some things that could be very exciting. It’s definitely not the best Sorcerer subclass to ever be conceived, but it’s a subclass that I’d be interested in playing if only to feel like a Paladin with more spell slots and fewer oaths.
I’ll start by talking about the good things this subclass has going for it.
Sorcerers are one of the squishiest classes in all of 5e, so they need a lot to make them melee combat-ready. Fortunately, this subclass does this. Shield proficiency, extra hit points per level, and a special AC boost that can be used unlimitedly are all the perfect storm of abilities to make these characters hard to hit and hard to take down.
While I don’t particularly love the spell list, I will say that it’s a good thing this subclass was given combat-focused spells. The collection needs improvement, but it’s on the right path. The important thing here is that we have a way to use our spells and still attack with the melee weapons we’re being guided toward.
Now, everything else in this class needs some serious work, although there are some good concepts at play.
The Stone Aegis feature feels very much like a Paladin aura, providing a protective bonus to nearby allies, which is great. Unfortunately, the protection isn’t that effective, and it’s downright confusing. Reducing damage by “2 + your Sorcerer level divided by 4,” if I’m reading it correctly, means reducing hits by a maximum of 7 damage if you’re a level 20 Stone Sorcerer.
The offensive part of this ability, a reaction that allows you to teleport up to 60 feet and make an attack that deals extra damage, however, is insanely powerful. This half of the feature alone is what makes the Stone Sorcerer worth considering, although it doesn’t lend itself much to a balanced character.
Then, we get a feature that feels like a copout, boosting the damage of your spells toward one target on the first round. It’s nice, but it doesn’t reinforce the use of melee combat. In fact, it suggests a lack of confidence in the melee abilities of this subclass.
Stone Sorcerers end up with a confusing build. We’re simultaneously told that we’re an offensive melee attacker, a source of protection for our allies, and a master of “earth magic.” To counteract all of that, we’re not built to be in the fray, our protection negates very little damage, and we seem to have almost no focus on spells that aren’t a smite here and there.
Would Sword Sorcery be a cool subclass to explore at one point? Yes, I’m sure of it. Was earth magic the way to go about it? No. It’s just not worth it.
Stone Sorcerer Build
I know I’ve just told you that this isn’t a good subclass, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful for a good build. Six levels in this subclass get us access to Stone Aegis, but we don’t need a level 20 build for just this class. Multiclassing is the way to go here, allowing us access to more martial abilities.
For this build, we’ve used the standard array ability scores present in the PHB (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8).
- Class: Stone Sorcerer 14, Oath of Conquest Paladin 6
- Race: Half-Elf (Wood Elf Heritage)
- Background: Far Traveler
- Ability Scores: STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA
- Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Proficiency
- Language Proficiencies: Terran, Elven, Common
- Tool Proficiencies: Musical Instrument
- Equipment: A light crossbow, 20 bolts, arcane focus, explorer’s pack, two daggers, one set of traveler’s clothes, any one musical instrument or gaming set you are proficient with, poorly wrought maps from your homeland that depict where you are in Faerûn, a small piece of jewelry worth 10gp in the style of your homeland’s craftsmanship, and a pouch containing 5gp
- Feats: Tough, War Caster, Great Weapon Master
- Metamagic Options: Empowered Spell, Quickened Spell
- Important Spells: Searing Smite, Elemental Weapon, Armor of Agathys, Booming Blade/Green-Flame Blade, Sword Burst, Lightning Lure
The combination of Sorcerer and Paladin is by no means a new idea. It gives Paladins access to more casting abilities and spell slots while giving Sorcerers some much-needed durability. This specific build is basically a tank and focuses almost exclusively on dishing out melee attack damage.
We’ve chosen the Oath of Conquest here because it’s one of the best Paladin subclasses but also because of its strong mix of offensive and defensive abilities. Most importantly, we’re getting access to divine smite and extra attack from the main class and guided strike (+10 bonus on attack rolls) from the subclass.
This build is supplemented by some great feats that are always on the recommendations list for gish characters. Tough gives us extra HP that we definitely need; Great Weapon Master makes our weapon attacks, specifically heavy weapons, much more effective; and War Caster is the most important of all. This feat lets us hold concentration easier, use our spells (cantrips) as opportunity attacks, and cast spells easily while holding weapons.
Add in Empowered spell to deal more damage more frequently and Quickened spell for a bit of haste when we need it, and we’ve got a pretty amazing build. It’s not often that we won’t have a reaction to make, and with extra attacks, that’s three attacks each round. Since most of them will be dealing extra damage, our DPS is pretty comparable to some of the best fighters.
You’ll also notice that most of our important spells are cantrips. That’s because we’ll be able to constantly smite and then utilize a melee weapon cantrip for our attacks, providing a huge boost to our damage output. We’ve thrown Lightning Lure in as the perfect War Caster reaction cantrip, pulling enemies in close so we can mess them up on our turn.
Sure, the Stone Sorcerer isn’t a great class on its own, but it’s incredible for supplementing a Paladin build. Truly, any Paladin could work with this, and Hexblade Warlocks or martial Bards are also excellent options to entertain. Rather than a fully realized class, this feels like a template for building other, more impressive, gish characters off of.
Stone Sorcery Unearthed Arcana Review
We’ve already looked at the subclass on its own, but it’s important to discuss why it didn’t make it out of playtesting. There are always reasons for subclasses and other mechanics not being published in 5e, and this subclass is a great example of some of them.
I also want to explore what could’ve been. Like most of you, my interest sparked in this subclass when I heard the name, imagining a Sorcerer that moved earth like it was an extension of their body. I’ll be taking a swing at a bit of homebrew, incorporating ideas from the UA, and using them for something more magical than martial.
The Problem With the Stone Sorcerer
This subclass suffers from some serious balance issues along with an inability to match up with what’s expected of a Sorcerer. On top of that, most of its features feel like they’re overstepping their bounds, stealing concepts from other classes and blurring the lines between archetypes.
This class essentially feels like it’s trying to be a Monk and Paladin all while being fit into the Sorcerer class. Confusing, right? Allow me to explain.
An AC of 13 + Constitution modifier is strikingly similar to the equation for Unarmored Defense, something that’s given to Monks and Barbarians. The feature, which suggests a character so hardy their defenses are impregnable, gives characters an AC equal to 10 + two ability modifiers important to the class.
It wouldn’t make sense, necessarily, for charisma to have an impact on AC, so we drop the second ability score and trade it in for a +3. This gives you the same average AC range of 16 to 18, which is absolutely insane for a class that doesn’t even get light armor proficiency.
The designers of 5e have made it clear that some abilities belong to certain classes. It’s what incentivizes playing the game with different characters and what makes certain classes better at things than other classes. There’s a reason few classes get significant healing outside of the Cleric class.
Stealing unarmored defense and renaming it is bad enough, but we also steal auras and make them slightly better. Auras are an important part of the Paladin class, and it’s what lends them their unique protective playstyle. These features provide passive bonuses to allies, allowing Paladins to stay in the fight and still support the team.
Stone Aegis does this but to a much more realized extent. It covers a much wider range than an aura does and adds in an active ability with teleportation that should be impossible without spending some form of resource. I mean, 60 feet is two 2nd-level spell slots!
Not only do you get to teleport, but you also get to make an attack that deals extra damage! This amount of movement is unparalleled except by, again, the Monk.
We’ve taken the protective abilities of the Paladin and improved them, straight up stealing their signature spells, smites, and using them as our own. We’ve also taken the durability and impressive movement of Monks right from under their incredibly fast feet, and they already have an elemental subclass.
It’s a lot of powerful abilities, so it looks like the designers then decided to nerf the character a bit, but they did so in the wrong way. After 6th level, we don’t get anything of value. Sure, extra spell damage is nice, and protecting more people is helpful, but these aren’t abilities that make sense at the level we’re getting them.
This whole subclass is built upside down with the strongest abilities being immediately available, and the supplementary features coming in where we should be getting capstones. This is where we see no balance.
If all of this wasn’t enough, there’s nothing in this subclass to justify its connection to the Sorcerer, aside from some flavor. We’d expect to see at least some reference to metamagic or more focus on our spells, but we don’t get that.
A direct comparison would be the Bladesinger Wizard. This subclass takes the Wizard’s abilities and directly applies them to combat, allowing us to feel like a Wizard who has mastered the sword rather than a swordmaster with some spell slots. It’s this key, subtle difference that makes the Stone Sorcerer unsuitable for 5e play, while the Bladesinger is one of the best Wizard subclasses out there.
Now, typically, I would create a redesign that feels more playable for 5e. Unfortunately, this is a unique scenario. This only needs a bit of redesign, but it needs to be moved and modified to a different class. So, you’ll just have to wait a bit for my Earth Sorcerer, a subclass that actually feels like what this one should’ve been trying to accomplish — a subclass of Sorcerer with total command over earth magic.
Until then, check out some of our other Sorcerer guides. And as always, happy adventuring.
- About Author
- Latest Posts
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.