Wands & Staffs in 5e: Great Options At Every Tier of Play

No, you’re not on Diagon Alley, this is most definitely not Ollivander’s, but, you are here for the right reasons. Wands!

More than just arcane focuses, these magical items let you unleash incredible spells and effects, all built-in with their own magic.

We’ll rope wands and staves into one article here since both items fit the same general principles.

Let’s do this!

Summary:

  • Wands and Staffs are typically a rare commodity in D&D 5e.
  • There aren’t many good early game options, but we’ve got a few homebrewed up for you.
  • Midgame is where you’ll see most of the published content fall with things like the Staff of Thunder and Lightning or a Wand of Firebolts catching a lot of attention.
  • Tier 4, late gameplay has a few legendary or artifact options, but we’ve put together a few more to really give you something to be excited about.

Wands and Staves Early Game

We’re defining the early game as 1st tier, 1st through 4th levels. The rarity of these should be common, maybe some lower powered uncommon items can be thrown in there as well. Here are a few of the published options:

  • Staff of Flowers (common) – This staff can be used to create nonmagical, harmless flowers at a designated spot. You have 10 charges, replenishing 1d6 + 4 each day at dawn. The staff vanishes in a puff of flower petals if you use the last charge.
  • Wand of Pyrotechnics (common) – This wand has 7 charges which can be used to create a harmless burst of multicolored light up to 60 feet away. The wand regains 1d1 + 1 charges daily at dawn and erupts in a harmless display of pyrotechnics if you lose the last charge.

Most of the early game wands and staves are like this, pretty harmless with maybe a useful ability if you squint really hard while standing upside down and holding your breath.

I want to at least give my players something to use, even if it’s not going to make them feel like gods.

There’s also the option of giving players an item that scales with them, making it feel extra special and as much a part of them as Harry’s wand or Gandalf’s staff would for those characters.

  • Wand of Wellbeing (common) – This wand has 30 charges and regains 3d6 + 6 charges daily at dawn. As an action, you can spend up to 10 charges to heal a single creature by that many hit points, or you can spend 20 charges to heal 3 different creatures by 7 hit points. If you use the last charge roll a d20, on a 1 the wand disappears in a cloud of smoke, leaving behind only a Potion of Healing. 
  • Staff of the Scholar (common, requires attunement to a spellcaster) – This staff acts as an extension of the wielders arcane knowledge. Each time you learn a spell from gaining a level in your class, you may learn an extra spell from any spell list so long as it is of a level which you can cast. 

Wands and Staves Mid Game

Mid game is a pretty wide range, and unsurprisingly, it’s where most of the gameplay takes place. Tiers 2 and 3 are what we call the mid game, including levels 5 – 16.

While you’re playing in this range, the rarity of the items you find can vary greatly, from uncommon all the way to very rare, with some DMs even introducing an artifact here and there.

There are a lot to choose from in this section of the game, almost 40 different wands or staves. I’ve chosen some of the most iconic or powerful ones out there to display for you today. 

  • Staff of the Python (uncommon, requires attunement by a Cleric, Druid, or Warlock) – This is an awesome staff that turns into a giant constrictor snake (a CR 2 huge beast) that is under your control. You can turn it back by issuing it’s command word as a bonus action or continue to let it wreak havoc on your behalf. It does get destroyed if the snake drops to 0 HP before you turn it back, so try not to make it a one time use.
  • Wand of Magic Missiles (uncommon) – This is a famous wand that allows you to cast the spell magic missile with the use of one charge. You can also cast it at a higher level if you use an extra charge for each level after 1st. Since this has 7 charges, you could potentially drop a 7th level magic missile on someone as a 5th level character! It does work by the ‘regaining charges at dawn and crumbling if you use the last charge’ concept, so maybe don’t get too excited.
  • Staff of the Woodlands (rare, requires attunement to a druid) – This can be wielded as a +2 quarterstaff that also gives you +2 to spells that you cast while wielding it. The staff has 10 charges and regains 1d6+4 at dawn. With it you can cast the following spells, for different amounts of charges:
    • Animal Friendship (1 charge)
    • Awaken (5 charges)
    • Barkskin (2 charges)
    • Locate Animals or Plants (2 charges)
    • Speak with Animals (1 charge)
    • Speak with Plants (3 charges)
    • Wall of Thorns (6 charges).

It can also cast Pass without Trace at the low cost of 0 charges. If basically being its own druid wasn’t enough, it also has an ability called Tree Form which allows you to stick it into the ground and turn it into a tree, potentially keeping it from being found by others.

You then just have to touch the tree and speak its command word to turn it back into a staff.

Wand of Fireballs (rare, requires attunement by a spellcaster)  – Out of all the ‘wands of anything’ out there, this is the stick I’ve heard the most about.

A wand of fireballs works by using up a charge to cast fireball, and of course, you can use multiple charges at once to cast a higher level fireball. Don’t use all seven charges at once or you’ll be out one very reliable little tinderbox. 

This is an amazing wand, not just because it’s Readymade Fireball’s in a Stick, but because it gives you access to up to 7 3rd level spell slots a day (6 if you plan on keeping it). Even in the hands of a 20th level wizard, access to this much extra spellcasting is a huge bonus.

Staff of Thunder and Lightning (very rare, requires attunement)Here’s another staff that does more than just expend charges and cast spells. Instead, this can be used in 5 distinct ways per day.

The abilities Lightning, Thunder, Lightning Strike, Thunderclap, and Thunder and Lightning each allow you to do some pretty amazing things. Lightning and Thunder can both be used as a sort of smite to your melee attacks with the staff, which is +2 by the way. 

The other two are more like spells that you cast, a huge strike of lightning dealing massive damage to a lot of foes, or a mild amount of damage and the ability to deafen your foes.

Of course, you can also use the Thunder and Lightning option to use both spell-like options at once, a great ace in the hole to have lying around.

  • Wand of Polymorph (very rare, requires attunement with a spellcaster) –  A very simple wand that allows you to cast polymorph by expending a charge. As arguably one of the most powerful spells in the game, this is going to be exciting for any player to come across.

End Game Wands and Staves

When it comes to endgame options, there really aren’t many in official published content right now. In fact, there are only three staffs of legendary rarity, not a single wand to be waved.

In fairness, giving high-level players items that match their power puts them above the level curve and we really end up with characters who exceed a 20th level build.

Let’s look at one of the legendary staffs, the Staff of the Magi as an example.

  • Staff of the Magi (legendary, requires attunement to a sorcerer, wizard, or warlock) – This staff has 50 charges which can be used to cast 13 different incredibly powerful spells like a 7th level Fireball or Planeshift. It also lets you cast a few lower leveled spells without using any charges, basically giving you a free supply of 1st and 2nd level spell slots.

All that alone is incredible, right? There’s no denying it. There are even more benefits that this has to offer though. The staff gives you advantage on all spell saving throws, a pretty useful boon.

I wouldn’t worry too much about that though, because you can also just react to spells that target you and absorb them, completely negating the effects and giving you more charges equal to the level of the spell you absorb.

If you absorb more than 50 charges, or if you have a death wish and do so as an action, you can break the staff and cause it to explode, unleashing all of it’s magical energy in a sphere of 30-foot radius.

You do have a 50% chance of being teleported to another plane of existence, so flip your d2 and hope you don’t end up taking a whole heck of a lot of damage.

It can be a nice sacrifice play, or maybe you can take the hit, who knows, either way it’s cool, and possibly the most powerful staff out there.

As far as an endgame magic item goes, the Staff of the Magi is definitely something to look forward to, but as of right now, that’s about it. The other two staffs of legendary rarity are very specific to Waterdeep, and while you could format them to fit your campaign, most of their legendary status just comes from their uniqueness.

It’s also a good example of WotC apparent confusion with Artifacts, which the Blackstaff and the Dragonstaff of Ahghairon definitely should be considering they are unique. But who am I?

Anyways, you want to have more options to dole out to your players as a reward for making it so far into the game, so I’ve come with a few options that’ll be sure to blow them away.

  • Wand of  Wild Magic (legendary, requires attunement to a spellcaster) – This wand crackles with magical energy and requires a DC 17 check (Intelligence, Charisma, or Wisdom, your choice) to be made in order to attune with it at the end of the short rest. If the check fails the creature attempting to attune receives 2 levels of exhaustion and cannot attempt to attune again before they complete a long rest(or they will receive another 2 layers of exhaustion).  

A creature that is attuned to this wand develops a connection to the chaotic nature of the magic inside and can use it to manipulate the world around them. This wand has 20 charges.

You can use 1 charge as a reaction to change the effect of a spell cast by a creature you can see within 60 feet of you to a random effect determined by a roll on the Wild Magic Surge table on page 104 of the PHB.

You can also expend 3 charges to replace the spell with a spell of your choosing, so long as it is of the same level or lower. 

  • Staff of Draconic Might (legendary, requires attunement to a spellcaster) – This staff is carved from the tooth of an ancient dragon. Upon attunement, a creature can speak and understand Draconic, but cannot read it. Once per day, as an action, you can use the staff to turn yourself into any dragon so long as it is size huge or smaller and it’s CR is not greater than your character level. 

You keep your ability scores but otherwise gain all of the stats of your new form. This transformation lasts for 1 minute, until you dismiss it as an action, or until you are incapacitated.

If you are incapacitated while in dragon form, the staff unattunes itself from you and teleports to another plane of existence.

The basis of both of these are that I want a character to really feel like they’re having their sword in the stone moment, or to feel like Doctor Strange bonding with his Cloak of Levitation.

I want these magical items to feel incredibly powerful without breaking the game, so I base them off of features and abilities already in the game and then just turn them up a notch.

Putting Wands and Staves in your Game

Magic items are a way for your character’s to be capable of doing even more incredible things than their class and race abilities allow for normally. Wands and staves are no different, with a heavy focus on spells and effects that could easily be spells.

The typical composition of either of these includes a number of charges which can be used to activate certain effects a limited amount of times per day.

If you’re looking to introduce one of these magical sticks into your campaign, or thinking about begging your DM for a cool new piece of gear, you’ll want to consider what things your character can’t already do.

A warlock wouldn’t want a wand that fires eldritch blasts, but a ranger that you know is considering picking up the Spell Sniper feat might be a perfect candidate for just that. 

It’s also very important to consider how balanced the power level of the item makes the character. Typically, attuning yourself to a magic item is similar to gaining a level, from a balance perspective. You should gain access to as many new abilities as gaining one or maybe two levels would give you normally. 

A great example is the Wand of Fireballs mentioned above. Such a wand would be ridiculously powerful in the hands of a first-level wizard. Instead, it’s geared towards a character of at least around 9th level.

At which point such a character could cast three normal fireballs, three 4th-level fireballs, and one 5th-level fireball.

Now, getting the wand definitely gives them a huge bonus, but doesn’t let them do anything they couldn’t do already without really working for it (spending 4 charges to cast a 6th-level fireball). 

The only other note I have is to spread the love. If your casters are getting access to awesome wands and staves, throw a bone to your poor melee fighters trying their hardest to stay relevant.

Give them a magical shield, magical bow, or maybe even a nifty spear to spice things up a bit.

As always, happy adventuring!