After the massive reveal of the Mystic playtest material, Wizards of the Coast has felt that it was time to get some additional feedback from a previous submission along with another created from the feedback received from the Lore Mastery Wizard tradition. You can find my reviews on the Lore Mastery tradition here. While I did not review the Theurgy tradition when it first came out, now is a good time to do a proper Death By Review treatment of it since I myself had time to even playtest and use this sub-class option.
Now for some history lessons, because part of this review will be contingent upon the older iterations and classes that inspired these traditions. We have the Mystic Theurge prestige class which blended divine and arcane spellcasting, and the War Mage was a class that was introduced in the Complete Arcane supplement in 3.5 Edition of D&D. The Mystic Theurge was a simple prestige class that granted two different spellcasting classes, specifically one divine and one arcane spellcasting class 10 levels worth of progression in regards to spells slots, spells known, and what spell levels they could cast. In a scenario of equal distribution of class levels, the character would often only be able to wield up to 7th-level spells which represented the lack of total focus and devotion to master far more intricate spells. With a more asymmetrical approach, the Mystic Theurge can excel and gain full spellcasting prowess in one class while receiving an extra boon from the other. Most Mystic Theurges were Wizards with some levels in Cleric or Druid, granting them just a flavor of divine spells which were often buffs or debuffs not accessible to the Wizard normally. The Mystic Theurge was essentially a scholarly divine spellcaster who master both practical magic and those granted by the gods.
The Warmage was a class first featured in the Complete Arcane supplement during 3.5 Edition’s reign, this same supplement also featured the Warlock class for the first time and later became a staple within D&D’s class roster as made evident in 4th Edition and the current 5th Edition ruleset. The Warmage was capable of wearing armor, ignoring their cumbersome effects, cast spells that were enhanced with quick metamagic effects and focused almost entirely on damage dealing and battlefield control spells, most evocation and conjuration spells essentially. They were a spontaneous spellcaster, meaning they never had to prepare their spells and simply knew the spells of warfare. War and magic have been mutually exclusive, in the Forgotten Realms, the infamous War Wizards of Cormyr were tacticians that specialized in shaping their spells to safeguard Cormyrian soldiers on the battlefield while raining havoc on enemies. Additionally the War Wizards wore magic rings that when taken off, alerted other War Wizards of impending danger and would have them teleport themselves to the War Wizard who removed their rings. The archetype of a War Mage or War Wizard has been seen across many campaign settings, from Dragonlance to Eberron and Greyhawk. Finding balance of features while remembering the awesome power of arcane spells requires sometimes giving less as arcane spells do more than most features can hope to accomplish.
Click here for the Theurgy and War Magic Wizard tradition playtest material.
Religious Studies – Theurgy Wizard Tradition
What makes this Wizard tradition stand above many other sub-class options presented within 5th Edition is that this particular path allows a Wizard to emulate the class features from a Cleric’s Domain choice while still retaining their spellcasting list. Not only that, but the Arcane Initiate feature allows a Wizard to add domain spells to a Wizard’s spellbook whenever they would learn spells during level up. Once a Wizard has learned all available domain spells, they can choose to learn full-fledge Cleric spells which is truly powerful since the Cleric’s spells list is the 2nd best list for Ritual spells which a Wizard can cast them without preparing them so long as their spellbook is available. The Theurgy Wizard also gains the ability to use the Domain’s Channel Divinity feature and the Divine Arcana feature. Starting at 6th level with the Arcane Acolyte, the Wizard gains the 1st-level Domain features from the Cleric class but none of the proficiencies that come with some domains. The Arcane Priest and Arcane High Priest function in a similar fashion, granting the chosen domain’s 6th-level and 17th-level features. Essentially this Wizard tradition grants the features of a totally different class while still retaining many of its identifying qualities. While some domains are better for the Wizard than others, even having a Wizard being devoted to the god of thieves and assassins and possess the Trickery domain, that is both thematically flavorful but also useful for an assassin wizard sort of character. There are some very useful applications for giving a Wizard access to a Cleric domain, though I will note that there are no additional skill proficiencies which would seem appropriate for the Theurge Wizard here.
Spell and Blade – War Magic Tradition
Instead of the image of an armored mage charging along with a battalion of soldiers, either supporting them with buffs or blasting enemies away, we have a more regimented approach of a Wizard in a war zone. The approach that this tradition went was more along the lines of “magic is my armor and sword” which theoretically sounds fine and dandy but takes away from the implicit notion of a wizard in an large battle with dozens of squads and battalions of soldiers and warriors.
- Arcane Deflection is an ability that allows a Wizard to use magic to desperately shield themselves against an attack or improve their chances on Constitution saving throws (especially for concentration on spells). It’s not a bad ability since the Wizard spends a reaction to gain the benefits, the only downside is that the Wizard cannot use any other spells except cantrips on their next turn. So it leaves an odd place for the Wizard, to defend themselves and not cast that all important fireball, or not defend themselves and risk dying to cast that all important fireball spell. Realistically, I would rather just use the Shield spell here and call it a day, this feature is seems very underwhelming and wasteful. I would have definitely considered giving the Wizard at least proficiency with light armor and maybe even simple weapons here. Granted why give simple weapon proficiencies if they have cantrips, but it’s the principle of the matter. There could be better alternatives, especially when you’re considering things like the War Caster feat. Granted feats in general are optional rules but let’s be realistic here, unless you’re running a short one-shot and have desire to give players options, then you will never run feats. Wizards of the Coast design classes without the notion or existence of feats which seems counterintuitive to elevating some of these ideas to a greater design space rather than half mimic a spell or feat.
- Tactical Wit grants the War Wizard a bonus to initiative rolls equal to their Intelligence modifier, which honestly fits the idea of being quick and fast in combat. The first army to win a war with wizards is the only who fires their fireball spells first.
- Power Surge rewards the Wizard for including more than one target in their large area of effect spells, which fits perfectly for dealing lots of damage in a huge battle. Dealing two extra damage dice can make the difference, especially when considering that a 3rd-level fireball or lightning bolt can potentially become 10d6 worth of damage instead of 8d6 damage. Using this feature is exhausting and ultimately requires a short or long rest. While I’m not a fan of features only giving a short time boon between rests, it is quite a potent ability and seems to fit well with the rest of the features.
- Durable Magic is a feature that grants a +2 bonus to AC and saving throws while maintaining concentration of a spell. This is a great feature that rewards a Wizard for doing what they normally do and is quite meaningful especially if they have few options to increase their AC other than through spells like Mage Armor. Actually with Mage Armor, the War Wizard’s AC becomes 15 plus their Dexterity modifier which sounds pretty good. Mind you, Mage Armor does not require concentration but having both its effect and this feature when coupled with a concentration spell work fabulously together.
- Deflecting Shroud is honestly an underwhelming feature that only gives a small boon, essentially the War Wizard deals minor damage for each time they try to save their own skin in combat. Sure its damage, but the scaling is rather lackluster at best and just not as useful. Expanding on an already weak ability by not even adjusting their values and simply just trying to give the Wizard some DPR (damage per round) bonus is just not something needed or necessary.
The takeaway from the War Wizard tradition is simply that if we have a Theurge class for the Wizard, why not bring back something familiar and try and true? We are talking about Wizards molding and shaping magic to fit a battlefield, why not reincorporate Metamagic back to the Wizard? Granted the Sorcerer traditionally does not gain Metamagic options until 3rd level but I feel that if we up switch around Power Surge and grant that as a 2nd-level feature coupled with Tactical Wit, it gives the Wizard some real rewards in the early levels while still giving something impactful later down their career. So at 6th level, the War Wizard gains access to two Metamagic choices. The wizard can use any of them, but must take a long rest in order to use the feature again. So it gives the Wizard options while still restricting them enough to not be abusive like a Sorcerer can get. The War Wizard gains a third Metamagic choice by 14th level. But the capstone feature at 14th level needs to emphasize that the War Wizard is a wrecking ball and tide turner in battle, so perhaps the real boon should be the ability to double cast like in Final Fantasy, so perhaps a Celerity sort of feature wherein the War Wizard gains the ability to cast two spells that require an action to cast and can cast one of them as a bonus action for the turn. Afterwards the War Wizard needs a long rest to regain access to this all powerful ability. Especially by 14th level, we’re talking spells like Disintegrate and Finger of Death being accessible, and those can get really nasty.
The Theurgy Wizard tradition grants and embodies the spirit of the Mystic Theurge, giving the Wizard access to domain features while also giving them the ability to learn cleric spells and add them to their spellbooks. On the other hand, the War Magic tradition was designed very lackluster since the Evocation Wizard tradition practically fits many of the features and abilities of a Wizard lay down the pain on enemies which in turn makes this iteration rather lackluster and boring. The War Magic was inspired by feedback from the Lore Mastery tradition but unlike that playtest material, this one was a rather large letdown. The features should not emulate spells or feats for the War wizard, especially when the spells and feats are much better alternatives and defeat the entire point of this wizard sub-class option.
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