How to Prep a Spellcaster for Combat in D&D 5E

Posted by on March 2, 2017

MageIf you’re running D&D 5E combat that includes an enemy spellcaster, you may look at its stat block and secretly despair.

Spellcaster enemies often have a dozen or more spells available to them. How on Urth do you decide which ones to use in combat? Do you go over the list every round and decide which one is the best to use?

The secret lies in realizing this: most fights in D&D end in about 5 rounds.

Will your caster use all, or even most of its spells in combat? No.

As such, choose a few spells the caster will actually use.

Assuming an offensive spellcaster:

  • Select 2 high-level, single-use offensive spells
  • Select 1 combat cantrip or lower-level offensive spell with several slots
  • Select 1 utility spell

Assuming a defensive spellcaster:

  • Select 2 high-level, single-use defensive spells
  • Select 1 combat cantrip or lower-level offensive spell with several slots
  • Select 1 utility spell

Assuming a utility spellcaster:

  • Select 3 utility spells
  • Select 1 combat cantrip or lower-level offensive spell with several slots

Then, build a plan of attack, something like this for the offensive mage on page 347 of the Monster Manual:

  • Round 1: Cone of Cold
  • Round 2: Ice storm
  • Rounds 3+: Ice Storm (2x), Fireball (3x), or Counterspell

Of course, the mage may need to a round or two to get within range of the PCs, so it might cast cone of cold on round 3 of combat. This is an ordering of when the caster will use the spells, not which round it will use them on.

Then use a site like D&D-Spells to make one sheet (digital or paper) listing just these spells. Boom!

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