Is the Sorcerer weak?!

Some players pointed out, that the Sorcerer seems kinda lacking, if you compare it with other arcane main-casters like the Wizard and the Bard, while even the Warlock seems kinda stronger in comparison, even though this is a totally different class right down to the base.
Especially the Sorcerer vs. Wizard aspect is argued and since even the dumbest person can write and talk about it, an idiot like me is as good as anyone else. And to do it, we need some basics for it.

 

Why are the Wizard and Sorcerer competing? This comes mostly because of the fact, that it didn’t make a real difference if you played Sorcerer or a Wizard until 4e: Same spell lists, a little difference in mechanics, different fluff-texts. Technically the Sorcerer did knew less spells, but could spam them more easily without preparing any of them, while the Wizard got a ton of spells before, but had less spells per day and had to be more careful, which spells he had to learn.
Since most builds survive on just a few spells and spells outside them were only prepared by carefully considering what would be probable useful that day, the Sorcerer win out most of the time. Better spell slinger, supporter with all the utility needed, even though sometimes you’d want a special spell that no Sorcerer would have as a known spell. Something like Animate Rope would be like wasted capacity for most players.
Sharing the same spell list, it was unavoidable for those two classes to compete. So now the 3e-players are just comparing the class outright, while in 4e those both classes had a very different take, where the Sorcerer as a Striker was more damage focused while the Wizard as a Controller had the better battlefield control.

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And how does the Bard fit in? Another 3e aspect was, that the bard became a so-called spontaneous caster like the Sorcerer, but wasn’t a main-caster yet (someone who get spells up to 9th level), even though he had a own spell-list, which was very similar to the 5e spell-list in variety, his capacity was lower and so the Sorcerer was simply the better caster. Now the Bard upgraded and made a MA of Magic and has the same spell-slots per day as a Sorcerer, but more known spells, which would make him theoretically (in a way) the better caster now.

Now we know what kind of background these discussions have, but are those prejudices derived from earlier editions right in the first place? First of all, we need to remember, what are the basic differences between a Sorcerer and a Wizard.

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Wizard: A Wizard is a man who got 30 years old while still being a virgin… wait, false one. The Wizard who can actually cast spells is someone, who studied years of hard mental and sometimes physical labor to be able to tap into the power of the universe, controlling the elements by using graphs, signs, words and discipline. Somehow like a mathematician.
So a wizard should be able to be a great caster, who is able to cast most spells (depending on his studies, the spell-list could vary) and from all the classes would be the one, who has the most flexibility and skill in using arcane magic.

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Sorcerer: A Sorcerers are people who already have magic in their blood, who never needed much studying and learned most of their skills in practice. They don’t know, what they’re actually doing, they just can and as long it’s effective, it’s not that important. So logically their spell-list should have some more primal form of magic, the simple but powerful spells which pretty much acts more on thought instead per planning. But since they’ve that special connection to magic, that Wizards will never know, they should be able to cast spells more powerfully than those.

Pathfinder

OK, so far so good. Now we take a look at the Sorcerer and how this class fulfilled my expectations, while comparing his abilities with the wizard’s.

Spellcasting: At start the Sorcerer have 2 known spells, 4 cantrips, he have always as much spell-slots as a wizard of the same level. The Wizard has 6 spells in his spellbook, 1+INT he prepares and 3 cantrips. Over the course to level 20 the Sorcerer have always one more cantrip, while he stops at 15 known spells (the bard will have 22), while the Wizard have at least 44 in his spellbook and most likely (depending on INT) 25 spells prepared.
Even though the Sorcerer have a single more cantrip, the Wizards wins out due availableness of spells. And since the Sorcerer lacks Ritual Casting while the Wizard have a superior version of it, the Wizard is the better Wizard… kinda obvious.

Spell-list: Sorcerer’s spell-list isn’t as flexible as the Wizard’s, like already guessed. The Sorcerer is firstly lacking every spell, which have the name of a Wizard in it (like Mordenkainen, Melf, etc.). And most spells are more simply natured, less finesse, more like the raw power of the schools. And the only spells the Wizard don’t get are druidic, I’m a little disappointed to not see some Sorcerer-only spells, like Dragon Breath or Chaos Sphere, but maybe Origin-Only spells might appear in the future.

Font of Magic: This trait gives the Sorcerer the use Sorcery Points (SP) and one of their main uses is the option to regain spell-slots as a Bonus Action or to use spell-slots to regain SP. It reminds of Arcane Recovery of the Wizard and after having a delayed start and strength, it grows much better in terms of time (Bonus Action vs. Short Rest) but the number of spell-slots is lower at some point and of course it means, that you’ll have no SPs for other traits. But again it’s a plus, that you can translate spells into SP, if you don’t need spell-slots (especially the high ones) you can just make them into SP and afterwards use these SPs to create more lower level spell-slots. I do think, that’s much more flexible than the Wizard, especially since even short rests aren’t as short anymore. And as a bonus: You could actually create more spell-slots than you could can hold using this feature, even though I don’t see how a bonus action could be so valuable to do it before your spells runs low. Since you use SP for other features, too, I’d hold on them.

Metamagic: Here lies the true strength of the Sorcerer and the reason, why the Wizard compares so hard. Metamagic let you enhance a spell you’re casting in specific ways. Normally, you’d get 4 of them, but I won’t be surprised, if there is a new feat incoming, which would grants you the ability to pick a Metamagic and use it once per day or something like that (and of course more Metamagic to choose from in general). And Metamagic works with multiclassing, so you can metamagic Cure Wounds or other spells that way. But now to the specifics.

  • Careful Spell: Let people up to the CHA-mod automatically success a save in spell area. Evoker’s Sculpt Spells do almost the same, but even let your allies take no damage at all, but works only on evocations. For most iconic spells it won’t matter, since a lot of area effects are evocations, but there are a lot, which aren’t too, like Circle of Death. But I guess your allies will still hate the half damage. So stick to control-spells, like Fear.
  • Distant Spell: Doubles the Range of every spell. Spells which already have a range, have that ranged doubled, touch spells gains 30 feet range. Stacking with Spell Sniper, so you can bring a lot of mayhem out of save distance. The Wizard can’t copy it at this point. Enhanced range may make spells more useful, like Witch Bolt, which effect text only states ‘target stays within range’, so more range = less chance to escape your spell.
  • Empowered Spell: An easy way to bring up your damage, only 1 SP, if you get a really bad damage roll and re-roll as many dice as CHA-mod. Evoker’s Empowered Evocation and Overchannel are enhancing your damage, too, while both Origins brings one option as well, the Draconic early, the Wild late.
  • Extended Spell: This bit of Metamagic is a spell-saver, if you expect some combats with almost to time in-between (like dungeoneering a fortress), doubles simply the time of duration. But most likely it comes most handy during exploration, since spells like Enhance Ability are more meant for them. And of course the clerics and druids will getting all giddy, since they got some spells worth getting extended. No Wizard gimmick here.
  • Heightened Spell: Disadvantage to a high-level spell, which shouldn’t be saved? Sold! And no Wizard here either.
  • Quickened Spell: Cast a 1 action spell as a bonus action spell? Great for spell-slinging and again the Wizard lacks the possibility to copy it. One of my favorites is here Sunbeam, since you can cast it as a bonus action and use the action to throw a second beam (which is not spellcasting and therefore won’t be affacted by the ‘bonus action spell’-rule).
  • Subtle Spell: Seems at the least powerful at first glance, but might be the most powerful. As long there are only verbal and somatic components, you can actually stealth a spell, makes it more easy to stay hidden and have some out-of-combat use. Like charming the person you’re talking to without its companions even noticing it (and it makes it hard to Counterspell it, since the spell happens without anyone noticing it). Wizards could need it, but won’t get it.
  • Twinned Spell: Even though an enchanter have access to targeting two creatures with 1st level and above with a normally single-target enchantment, the Sorcerer makes it much better: Any single-target spell can be twinned by spending level as SPs (1 for cantrips). Haste, Disintegrate, Finger of Death, so many spells to choose from…

Since every Sorcerer have access to those, it makes a Sorcerer more versatile with the few spells he knows. Using right, it can compete with a Wizard in regards of Spell-Slinging and damage easily. But the evoker is still easier to pull off imo.

Sorcerous Restoration: Regain 4 SPs each short rest at 20th level. Actually a neat feature, but less powerful than other 20th level features. In the end it makes short rests actually making sense outside regaining hit points and might come in handy, but won’t really outweight the Wizard’s signature Spell Mastery or Signature Spell, which allows him to simply cast more worth of SPs in spells.

Sorcerous Origins: There are only 2 subclasses for now, so it lacks simply the variety of the Wizard (Three, since the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide came out).

Draconic Bloodline: More elemental damage, survivability and two nice features (wings and fear aura), which will make your Sorcerer better at standing in the front. As long the DEX is right, he’s as tough as most clerics. A good standard choice, shaping the Sorcerer in a more combat oriented class.

Wild Magic: I love this feature, but it’s too dependent on DM and uses to actually measure its power. But it brings ways to increase your odds, much later your damage and when rolling on the Wild Magic table (which depends on your DM), anything can happen. You might regain all SPs or end up as a potted plant until the start of your next turn. But hey, it’s not ‘tamed magic’, after all.

Conclusion: Of course the Wizard could do solme of the stuff the Sorcerer can, since there are 7 Arcane Traditions, which are mastery of a limited area of magic, while only 2 Sorcerous Origins are out. More options means more overlapping in most cases and that the Wizard with all Arcane Traditions seems to be stronger is just natural.
And Wizard’s Class featured are more about the tradition than anything else, while the Sorcerer works well on his own, while the Origin adds up to that basic. While an evoker could be a better spell-slinger, his special features only works for that.

In the end you have to say goodbye to the idea, that a Sorcerer and Wizard are still practically the same class. As long the Sorcerer remains that restrictive in the spell-list, he’ll definitely won’t replace a Wizard, but might be more fun, since there seems to be more room to adapt to the situation.
And like always: It’s more of the fun factor. If you want to be a strong, destructive spellcaster, choose the Sorcerer or the evoker, both are pretty stable choices. If you prefer to use magic for more, take the Wizard. If you want to use the features the Wizard won’t get and get more fun of the spells you know: Take the Sorcerer.

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But I can say the following: The Sorcerer is not weaker than the Wizard! Only if you use only theorymachine without using real situations (in a fictional game-world).

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2 thoughts on “Is the Sorcerer weak?!

  1. Regrettably, I disagree with your assessment. There is no longer a comparison in power level, despite the obvious benefits of meta-magic. Sorcerers have always been about casting fewer spells more often without hassle, now they cast WAY fewer spells, off a reduced spell list, less often and with more hassle since they may have to worry about applying meta-magic in some fashion.
    I am by no means claiming that You are wrong across the board, but I think once they removed the necessity for a wizard to prepare their exact spells daily, or for them to have a book after doing his initial preparation, they turned him into what a sorcerer should be. Removing a wizards spell book is no longer anything but a minor inconvenience, they simply continue with the spells that they have memorized (more than the Sorcerer is even capable of) then can scribe them down in another book whenever they eventually decide to.
    The only upside to the sorcerer is they finally started having a concept of where your magic comes from, unfortunately, they only give two possible options. As of yet nothing in the “benefits” of your sorcerous background makes up for only knowing 15 spells at lvl 20 instead of the 43 you knew in 3.5, or only being able to cast one 9th level spell daily instead of 6. I could deal with the number of known spells being reduced, or the shrinking of the available spells (without giving them anything special to them) but combining that with stripping them of their ability to cast more often is too much.
    The whole concept of a sorcerer was destroyed by 5th edition, and until they do something to fix the weakness they instituted, it is going to be a useless few pages in the book before the two arcane magic casting classes that were fairly well designed.

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    • And I disagree with your disagreement. But thanks for pointing this out, I edited this about one and a half year old post, since new things are known. Only minor ones, so don’t be in a hurry to re-read it again. 😉

      So, how do I stand today? I had both in my parties (as a DM), sorcerers and wizards and even both at the same time. Both are actually quite balanced, even though you might think it isn’t the case, if you only look at the text.

      The wizard’s strengths are very dependend on the Arcane Tradition, an evoker will always outshine any other spellcaster in terms of damage; that’s just what that class does. But in the end, the ‘core wizard’ (means without taking the subclass into consideration) is just a spellcaster with many utility spells in his spelllist and the quantity of prepared spells to actually use them (unlike in 3e). And even though the wizard’s Ritual Casting is neat, it doesn’t make too much of a difference in the long run.

      The real trouble for sorcerer players are the limited known spells, but after overcoming that hurdle and when thinking about metamagics when selecting the known spells, they become badass (yes, still talking about core sorcerers). When you quicken cast a sunbeam, just to use your action to throw a second beam or when using a spell like haste at two targets, you’ll experience how powerful one metamagic can be. Or a disintegrate with disadvantage, which turned quite a lot of foes into dust.
      These may be later in the game, but at the beginning, both classes suffers from similiar problems.

      In the end, I think you need different playing styles to pull out both classes. A sorcerer player have to be able to decide which spells you need and which you don’t and after a bit of thinking about your main spells (since a bit of support is never wrong), you can make them horrendous strong (horrendous for the DM, who suddenly faces two giant apes, since the sorcerer thought, it would be funny to twin that polymorph spell; you might handle one, with the appropriate level to a degree, but with two, the party resources are quite spared [one 4th level spell and 4 SP, one of them can be restored, by sacrificing a bit of ‘unneeded’ ressources, while the other characters are hardly strained]). In the end that kind of player needs to be decisive for actual gain.
      A wizard’s player doesn’t need to be, but to make most out of the class, he needs to have the patience to read through all spells, especially the utility ones, since they’re more or less a wizard’s trademark. And memorize them clearly enough to decide, which spells are needed as a core and which ones might be useful otherwise.

      The problems my players are rarely running into are: 1.) Too few spell slots after 7th level (even though they alwys wish to have higher ones). 2.) The need of magic to solve a problem (it may be convinient, but it’s not a prequisite), unless it’s a plot device outside their classes. 3.) An unbalanced spell selection.

      The reasons why this is the case are: 1.) They learned how to manage resources in 4e and know when to rest. 2.) The adventures are written well enough. 3.) The realization, that in preperation and in known spells, there is no need to think as the spell levels as sepperate.

      In regards of your assessment, I think you’re too focused on the past and a single argument. With new game mechanics comes a new game balance and with a new game balance, there are other needs. High level spells are less demanded, since they got overall stronger imo, the sorcerer can make them even better or harder to resist. When facing a few wizards, you’ll know, that a subtle fireball can make a big difference, since it won’t be countered.
      When I play for a change, I’m often a wizard, since I’m too much of a nerd, to not play that part at the other side of the table, but often I real envy the sorcerer, since that class makes good spells into great and great spells into monsters. So I just need to concentrate on my Arcane Tradition and remind me, why I selected this particular class set. Of course, there is always merit in a subclass, but the sorcerer does sweet things without taking a subclass into account. And of course, I played a sorcerer as well and I had a great time, since I know how to manage my resources.
      With the additional spells in the Elemental Evil Player Companion and the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (which opens up the possibility for a sorcerer [better the draconic one] to actually do stuff in melee) and the new sorcerer subclass in the SCAG (which I personally don’t like fluff-wise, but oh well), the sorcerer became better equipped and it won’t stop there, I’m sure.

      You’re still free to disagree, but for me, the sorcerer became interesting in 5e and its strengths are different from a wizard’s, but not less. Although, if you were mainly a 3e player, I can understand that kind of view, since spells were too convinient there, so most of the time you depent on them.
      In this sense, it’s great that what doesn’t work for one, do for another. Different point of views are valuable and maybe in your games there are different styles than in the ones, I play or DM, so you need other means, ^^

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