What’s Dungeons and Dragons without its array of diverse classes and subclasses? If you are an avid DnD player, you would know by now that your character’ build decides your play style vastly (which is why it is important to make a good character). While you can prefer some classes over others, no one class is omnipotent or especially vulnerable. It is all about strategizing based on your strengths and weaknesses, quite like how it works in real life.
One such subclass that has for long been at the center of the discussion is the Shadow Sorcerer 5E build. What is Shadow Sorcerer, what are its perks and let downs, which races gel well with it- we shall be looking at all that and more in this 5E Shadow Sorcerer guide.
Let’s get started!
DnD Shadow Sorcerer Explained
For those who are not aware, the Sorcerer class can choose their subclasses at level 1 since their origins are an integral part of their identity and not merely a creed to fall back on. One such subclass open to the Sorcerer build is the 5E Shadow Sorcerer. Simply put, this subclass holds dominion over the realm of darkness.
Introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Shadow Sorcerers receive their powers from the plane of Shadow, Shadowfell. So, your bloodline could run as far back as the Raven Queen herself! The exposure to dark energy has imbued you with the power to manipulate darkness. So, with the Shadow Sorcerer 5E build, you can bank on sneak and deception, with a special ability to slip between shadows.
Want a beefy defensive-centric subclass with immense battlefield control? Welcome to the 5E Shadow Sorcerer guide!
Best Shadow Sorcerer Quirks
Much like any other subclass, the 5E shadow Sorcerer has access to its individual set of perks that make it stand out from the rest. Some are great and can go a long way in aiding your gameplay, while others are a tad bit mediocre in comparison, but hey, no subclass can/should be omnipotent, remember?
With that, let’s get into the quirks of the Shadow Sorcerer 5E build:
1. Eyes of the Dark
First things first, let’s see what Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has to say about this Shadow Sorcerer quirk:
“From 1st level, you have darkvision with a range of 120 feet.
When you reach 3rd level in this class, you learn the Darkness spell, which doesn’t count against your number of sorcerer spells known. In addition, you can cast it by spending 2 sorcery points or by expending a spell slot. If you cast it with sorcery points, you can see through the darkness created by the spell.”
One of the handfuls of Sorcerer subclasses that benefit at the 3rd level, the ability to scale redeems its delay. With 120 feet of darkvision, we are talking about a terrific range of sight inside the dungeons. You might want to skip races with natural darkvision since you already get it as a perk. What’s more, this perk does not stack with previously held sources at all.
Imagine 120 feet- or in DnD terms, 24 squares- of range! You can bet that your combat won’t even reach that size, for the most part. Some will go past the 60 feet mark, but that’s rare. Needless to say, this quirk is most useful at the wee hours of the night or in large rooms inside select dungeons, but its flexibility extends past these scenarios as well.
While Darkness is not the greatest of spells, niche scenarios such as obscuring a target’s archer line or running away can benefit from it. Moreover, this spell has great synergy with other quirks and is quite the flavorful one of the bunch.
Here’s some good news: if you spend 2 spell points, you can not only harness Darkness but also see right through it. A feature solely reserved for Warlocks and Demons, and that too with a special invocation, you can get your hands on them pretty early in the game. Being the only one looking through, expect to get a drop on targets easily.
2. Shadow Walk
First, let’s see what Xanathar’s Guide to Everything mentions about this 5E Shadow Sorcerer quirk:
“At 14th level, you gain the ability to step from one shadow into another. When you are in dim light or darkness, as a bonus action, you can teleport up to 120 feet to an unoccupied space you can see that is also in dim light or darkness.”
Employed on a handful of darkness-based archetypes, this quirk never fails to impress! Note that this does not grant you flight, unlike other Sorcerer subclasses such as the Divine Soul Sorcerer. However, it still stands out as a thrill. Imagine your 5E Shadow Sorcerer with a bonus action to move no less than 120 feet- that’s terrific! By either finding some shadows or making some with Darkness, you can get a tremendous combat mobility bonus with this quirk.
This is a simple, albeit highly effective, quirk for the Shadow Sorcerer 5E build, and if used properly, its versatility can go a long way in complementing your gameplay.
3. Hound of Ill Omen
One of the most exciting quirks of any Sorcerer subclass, you get this one at level 6. By just spending 3 sorcery points, you can deploy a bonus action to call upon the baddest dog ever- a shadow Dire Wolf!
Deemed as a monstrosity instead of a beast, the hound is medium-sized. Appearing with some temporary hit points equal to half your Shadow Sorcerer 5E build’s sorcerer level, the shadow Dire Wolf can maneuver through objects and other creatures as if they were no more than bumpy terrain. If the hound ends its turn inside an object, say hello to 5 force damage.
Here’s what’s more: the shadow Dire Wolf knows its target’s location at the very beginning of its turn. So, no more worries about sequestered targets. Vicious, we know! Presenting itself within 30 feet of its target, it heads towards the enemy in a straight line. Note that it can only make an opportunity attack against an enemy. This spooky boy will last for 5 minutes (or less, if the target is dealt with, before that).
Note that shadow Dire Wolves have disadvantages on saves against your character’s spells when next to the target. Sounds unfair? Don’t worry; it doesn’t take much time to get used to this. Here’s the great news to compensate for that- the hounds get an advantage on attacks when an ally is nearby, and moreover, they can cause tripping if the effect is forced against a caster. Simply put, if you are chasing someone down, this is a great idea!
As for downsides, the hound does not scale very well. It will get additional health equivalent to only half your level, so at 47 HP, it’ll call it a day. So, are 3 sorcerer points too much? Not quite. The shadow Dire Wolf remains an exceptional tracker, with 50 feet of movement speed and 5 minutes runtime.
4. Strength of The Grave
Here’s what Xanathar’s Guide to Everything mentions about the Strength of the Grave quirk for 5E Shadow Sorcerer builds:
“Starting at 1st level, your existence in a twilight state between life and death makes you difficult to defeat. When damage reduces you to 0 hit points, you can make a Charisma saving throw (DC 5 + the damage taken). On a success, you instead drop to 1 hit point. You can’t use this feature if you are reduced to 0 hit points by radiant damage or by a critical hit.”
Some good comes out of being dead inside, after all. Note that this saving throw only works once per day. While this doesn’t sound like the most ideal death-prevention method, it is still significant!
Here are the upsides: you get this quirk as early as in level 1. So, you can use it right away to shield yourself from a decent hit when you barely have 7 HP. While it keeps you conscious, you can continue slinging spells. With anti-death, forget risking Death Saving Throws or your allies wasting actions or spell slots to pick you up.
As for the issues you might face, the number 1 is that unlike Half-Orc’s ‘Relentless Endurance,’ there’s a chance of you failing at this. A Charisma Saving Throw worth 5+ damage is not too hard to come by early on. Moreover, physical attacks will usually leave you with a passable, albeit large, DC in the late game. With spell casters, your Charisma Saves will be around +11, so the highest damage your character can tank with this one is 25 (unless, of course, you crit).
That’s not all; if you got crit, or a Cleric beats you with a radiant spell, say goodbye to this perk! While the latter can still be acceptable, the former is treacherous since crits are a few of the most likely ways to drop your health to the floor. So, while anti-deaths are great, they won’t save you as often as you would prefer.
5. Umbral Form
What does Xanathar’s Guide to Everything say about this quirk of the 5E Shadow Sorcerer? Let’s take a look:
“Starting at 18th level, you can spend 6 sorcery points as a bonus action to transform yourself into a shadowy form. In this form, you have resistance to all damage except force and radiant damage, and you can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. You take 5 force damage if you end your turn inside an object.
You remain in this form for 1 minute. It ends early if you are incapacitated, if you die, or if you dismiss it as a bonus action.”
Clubbing mobility and defense together, this one requires 6 sorcery points. Want the utility of wall walking without Etherealness? The Umbral Form is your go-to option. While wall walking is considered niche nowadays, it will still let you bypass Areas of Effect along with many other dungeon situations. If given a choice between melee damage from some revengeful dragons and 5 force damage, you should err towards the latter, any day. Moreover, you can chase down enemies who try to flee by turning corners quickly with this quirk.
Though the damage resistance is significant, it does not complement the easy use of Strength of the Grave, as the resistance would lower the DC you might need to reach to be able to survive. What’s great is that this will effectively double your average HP. But, none of these negate the fact that 6 sorcerer points are a little too much. So, try to use this only if you’re in desperate need of survival or if you wish to walk through walls.
Limitations of Shadow Sorcerer
Just like any other class or subclass, the Shadow Sorcerer 5E build comes with its own set of letdowns, and we dare say, that’s never a bad thing. To begin with, the Sorcerer class does not stack up quite as nicely as you would want it to, early in the game. You have to wait till level 6 to get your hands on any discernible offensive or defensive abilities.
With the ability to see right through, casting Darkness at level 3 for sorcery points instead of spell slots is helpful, but there’s only so far you can go with that. Moreover, the Strength of the Grave quirk is not the best of the bunch. It does not improve as you scale up, leaving you erring towards taking more damage just to pass the saving throw required to keep your character alive.
While you can still get a lot of kick out of your quirks, you will have to expend a considerable amount of sorcerer points to get access to them. So, unless you want to use your creativity greatly, this might not be the best idea.
Best Races For Shadow Magic Sorcerer
As always, not all races go with all classes and subclasses. Some races will complement the Shadow Sorcerer 5E build, while others might not. Here are some races that you can consider if you have taken up the 5E Shadow Sorcerer:
A race with +2 Charisma and another +1 to any stat of your choice, you can now potentially have +3 to Charisma! With that, you can have 20 Charisma by the time you get to level 4. Moreover, Shapechanger seems to be just as shady as your remaining archetype, and some bonus skills can help you become more effective at out-of-combat scenarios. With their hearts erring towards Darkness, you can have flavor on your side.
With this, you get +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Charisma, along with ability bonuses wherever needed. Moreover, you gain proficiency in Perception from the Keen Senses racial trait, alongside an advantage on saving throws against charms, courtesy of the Fey Ancestry. Additionally, you get a handful of Charisma-based spells, which can be cast once per long rest.
3. Fallen Aasimar
With this, you get +2 Charisma and +1 Strength, along with a few great racial feats. An alternative to the Paladin class’ Lay on Hands, the Healing Hands is great for boosting your healing potential. The access to the Light cantrip will help you play with the light-dark balance.
At level 3, Necrotic Shroud ability will open up, with the help of which “you can use your action to unleash the divine energy within yourself, causing your eyes to turn into pools of darkness and two skeletal, ghostly, flightless wings to sprout from your back.” So, it fits both theoretically and mechanically, as you can now frighten your targets and deal some added necrotic damage, same as your level once every turn.
A part of Acquisitions Incorporated, the Verdan race consists of Goblin-like people who depend on their innocence and optimism to get them through their lives. They gain +2 Charisma and +1 Constitution, along with having Persuasion for free. Their Persuasion skills will go hand in hand with your Telepathy skills. With Black Blood Healing, you can remain alive in between combat, while the Telepathic Insight will be extremely powerful for a caster.
While the Shadow Sorcerer 5E build might not be everyone’s preferred character, the perks offered along with the specialties afforded make it a treat to play as. With your shadow Dire Wolf, coupled with your wall walking and mobility, you are all set to feel like a dark force to be reckoned with!